The Write Stuff: Hitting The Wall

I have a problem with inventing these really big, broad stories that sound like a ton of fun and I get really excited about, but have to do a lot of research to actually finish. For instance, I had an idea that would cross my versions of a pair of pretty famous characters who never actually met in their own adventures. Pretty cool, right? I thought so. The problem was that making that story seem legit would involve a ton of research because it was a period piece.

I’m a stickler for accuracy. I hate when something little takes me out of a story that I’m reading, so I want to make sure I’ve got the details of certain things right. When dealing with a different decade or time period, that can get pretty sticky though. I know what it means to fly in a plane now, but how different was it in, say, the 50s? What kind of book do you look that up in? I wound up spending a ton of time in the library looking through books and then reading through a few. I’m a slow, slow, slow reader and it turned out I got a few books that weren’t actually pertinent to my course of study so I wound up wasting a lot of time.

I started this project while my wife was pregnant, hoping that it could be something I would actually finish. I had the characters pretty well in mind and how they would interact. I even started writing and came up with a few surprise characters that I really wound up liking. I got 45 pages into that one before hitting the wall. I even tried writing through my problems with the intent of going back and replacing those scenes or making them more accurate after doing my research, but it was just too much to deal with. I couldn’t get it out of my head.

On another occasion, I had the idea to write a young adult-type book that would play off of my personal experiences with music in high school. It was pretty fun reliving a lot of my memories and putting them on to someone else. I also used a different style of storytelling than I’m used to, so that was a fun experiment. This time around, though, I hit the wall based on a setting detail, something small, but important. I couldn’t answer the question of whether I should set the story back in the time that I went to high school or in the modern day. On one hand, it would be more authentic if I set it back in my day, but would it appeal to kids now? If I set it in modern times, I’d have to act like I know about what goes on in high schools now, which I absolutely do not. Wall, hit.

I know these probably don’t seem like huge issues and should just be skipped over, but not to me. I look at writing as creating a whole world, either completely made up or based on aspects of history/reality/whathaveyou. Your characters are the most important part, but if you’ve got the best damn characters around running around in a world that doesn’t make any sense or distracts the reader, they’re not going to get into the depth of your characters.

Thankfully, the project I’m working on right now is right in my wheelhouse. It’s set in the real world–my world, really–and I know the characters. The most research I’ve had to do with this one is looking up a few things on Google, mostly place names around where I live. I’m hoping that by doing all this, I’ll not only avoid hitting the wall, but also set myself up to succeed a little better than my other fun-yet-way-too-ambitious-given-my-current-circumstances. Wish me luck!

One thought on “The Write Stuff: Hitting The Wall

  1. Well, I can tell you that in the very early 60’s riding on an airplane was a very special event. I traveled on a plane alone to New York to spend some time with a family who were friends of my parents – they had one daughter who was my age. The Dad of this family was in the Navy with Grandpa Nichols and they kept their relationship going for years and years. The point is that at that time you wore your ‘Sunday best’ clothes – I wore my best dress (green hand me down from somewhere, but I had at least 3-4 petticoats underneath to make sure it flared out as much as possible – I felt like a million bucks!!!). Oh, and I had on sling back shoes. Those were shoes that you could move the strap to sit behind the heel of the shoe or you could buckle it over the top of your shoe like a mary jane (just look at Lucy’s little socks and you will know what I mean). The stewardess made sure I was doing OK. I was served a big meal and all the pop I wanted. After everyone on the plane was served the stewardess came and took me up to the cockpit to meet the pilots and it was then the pilot gave me a pair of plasic wings that looked just like the ones he wore on his lapel. What a special time it was.

    So, I think that any information you may need about time periods in this country in the past 90 years you might be best off spending some time with people of various ages who would love nothing more that to reminise with you about times of old. There are people all over who would love to tell you a story. See, you just mentioned the airplane travel and there was so much to remember. Give it a try – stretch yourself and strike up a conversation or two and you can ask specific questions without having to read the ‘whole book’.

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