March 14, 2016

Writing Amidst Those Choppy Seas

By Joy Ross Davis

I know a few writers who plot out their stories carefully and have the whole story ready before they begin to write.  For me, writing is similar to swimming in a tumultuous sea of thoughts and ideas.

Amidst the many waves of ideas, my stories come to me haphazardly, and they begin with a scene. I will see a new character, usually with a name, and know immediately the character’s purpose. The scene itself tells me what and who the character is.

For example, I had a deadline to meet for a Civil War novella. I struggled to come up with something fresh and new, but I was at a loss. Then one morning as I stared out across the yard, a character floated into my mind. I saw him sitting outside a tent. I knew immediately that he was a sutler and that his name was TuckerD. 

My next step in navigating the treacherous waters of writing is to envision an ending. I thought of my new character, what he might be, what he might do, and over the course of a few days, I knew how his story would end. I could see it, every part of it.

And that is how my writing process happens. A character is given to me, and as I think on that character, I am able to see how that story will end. The ending must be fixed before I begin writing.
Granted, I don’t know details. I know the main character. I know how the story will end and how that character fits. What is left is to dive deeply into the waters and discover the shimmering jewels I need to create everything in between.  

Though it might be an unusual method for writing a novel or a story, it is the one that comes most naturally to me. Knowing the main character and knowing how the story will end serve as my guidelines in creating the spectrum of the story.

Sometimes, when I explain that I can’t begin a story unless I know the ending, I get strange looks, but knowing the ending of the story tells me exactly what I need to know to create the rest of it. That ending is crucial to the movements, actions, and gestures of every other character. Everything must fit together in order to make the ending satisfying. Otherwise, the waves will overwhelm my tale, and it will be lost.

My way might not fit everyone, but perhaps it could be a guideline for other writers. The delight in creating, for me, comes within the various waves, storms, and tides of the story.  Having the ending clearly in my head serves as a lifeline to keep me on course as I navigate the choppy seas of writing.  
Joy Ross Davis is a student of the lore and magic of the back hills of Tennessee. She writes imaginative fiction featuring unusual angels as main characters. She has lived and worked in Alabama for most of her life. She has a Ph.D in Creative Writing, and for many years, taught English at a local community college. She retired to become a caregiver for her mother who suffered from dementia. For several months in 2007, she lived in Ireland and worked as a travel writer and photographer.  She is currently teaching English online and English in the classroom. She lives in Bessemer, Alabama, with her son and three rescue dogs. Published works available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble: Countenance (Ecanus Publishing, 2013), Emalyn’s Treasure (Helping Hands Press 2013), The Transformation of Bitty Brown (Helping Hands Press 2014), The Sutler of Petersburg (Helping Hands Press 2014), Sisters Divided (series) (Helping Hands Press), Mother, Can You Hear Me? (Helping Hands Press 2014) She documented her experiences with her mother in a series of articles for a local newspaper. The articles titled, “Mother, Can You Hear Me?” have also been featured in Muscadine Lines, a Southern literary magazine and are now available in paperback. Her first novel, Countenance, published in 2013, is the tale of a haunted B and B under the care of a renowned chef. Since that time, she has published four novellas and one Civil War short story, all available in paperback. Join me at Website:  Twitter: @joyrossdavis Facebook: Facebook Author Page: Amazon Author Page:

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