Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Fairy Dust

After I posted So, What IS a Story? last week, where I attempted to break down the type of story told in fast-paced commercial fiction into its components, one of the commenters quite rightly pointed out that I'd forgotten the most important ingredient of all - the sprinkle of fairy dust.

If a story is the engine of a book, then the Inciting Incident, the quest, the obstacles you place in your main character's way to stop them acheiving their goal are the parts of that engine – the pistons, bearings, pins and cranks. Essential, if a little mundane.

But fairy dust? Fairy dust is the fuel that makes it all work.

It's that surge of excitement when a new idea blossoms in your mind, seemingly out of nowhere. It's that moment when you get a sentence down and it says exactly what you meant it to say. It's the shape of your words in your head and on your tongue, as scenes you've dreamt about for days, weeks, months, years come to life. That fizzing in your fingertips as ideas pour out of them faster than you can type or write.

It's the moment someone gets on the bus you're riding to work and they ARE your main character, or you hear a song and know instantly it was written for the story you're trying to tell. And it's that feeling you carry around with you for days after someone reads the pages you've given them, trying to hide the fact that you just handed them your soul, and tells you you can do this, carry on.

But it's more than that, even.

At first, trying to fit the principles of storytelling to your work can seem dull and uninspiring. It certainly did to me.  I was outlining stories which adhered exactly to the structure in the diagram in last week's post… and they were so boring, they never got written.

But then I discovered YA. I discovered stories and characters I could connect with, and now, instead of trying to come up with plots that fitted a particular structure, I was coming up with ideas I really cared about, and learning how to use that structure to turn them into stories that actually worked. And that excitement, that magic is still with me now.

So more than anything, fairy dust is this: telling the stories that come from our hearts.

23 comments:

  1. Nice. You're so right. We all need a little fairy dust in our lives . . .

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    1. Thanks, Dan. We certainly do! :D

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  2. I agree Em. Fairy dust is the magic, the stuff that just comes from some other indefinable place. It's what makes the words appear in a magical and sometimes haphazard way, so that it shouldn't work, on paper, but somehow it does. It's the space in between the words, the pauses, the inbetweeny bits, and the randomness and spontaneity of it all... Ahhhhhh, I just love it!

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    1. Me too! It's what makes being a writer the best job EVER, I reckon. :)

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  3. Oh Emma, I love, love, love this post!
    Those feelings you get when a sentence that you've spent so long perfecting, finally works...when you pen a paragraph that sends a shiver down your spine...when someone smiles, or cries, or laughs in the right places when reading your work...
    Then the way a storyline falls into place...the way a blank page fills with magic...when your soul slips into your writing...
    We just have to let the fairy dust infuse our writing!

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    1. Hmm. I will have to send you some! *sends*

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  5. Love this! I live for those surge of excitements in my writing -- fairy dust is what makes it possible to carry on, as you say!

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    1. Thank you, Julia! And me too - it's what makes all the hard days worth it. :)

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  6. What a beautifully written post Emma. Inspiring too-off I go to write, taking some of your virtual fairy dust with me...!

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    1. Thank you, Anita! Hope it does the trick! :)

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  7. The fairy dust moments are what keep me going :-)

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    1. Me too, Joe! Writing would be impossible without them. :)

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  8. I'm glad you found your fairy dust Emma. A lovely post!

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    1. Thank you, Rebecca! Love your new-look blog, it's fab! x

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  9. This is awesome! Now I have a name for those moments and ideas...
    LOVE this article.

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  10. Well said, Emma. There is something about the construction of a story that needs that bit of magic. Where else to find it but in our hearts, right?

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