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Ed
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« on: February 08, 2007, 05:18:19 PM »

I wanted to write a story for The Guardian flash comp, but I was having trouble with getting going on it, so I decided to mind map it, to see if I could come up with something better than what I had.  The comp calls for stories featuring any aspect of late nights and, around our way, the first thing that springs to mind is violence - there's always somebody getting their head kicked-in on a Saturday night around here.  Sometimes innocent people get caught up in the violence, like a woman my wife knows. 

She was standing at the bar minding her own business, when out of nowhere a beer bottle flies through the air, smashes on a concrete pillar beside her head, glass from the bottle slices the front off her eyeball and leaves her blind in that eye and scarred for life. Turned out she was four or five months pregnant at the time, too. Anyway, that's beside the point. I started thinking about what it would be like for a beautiful woman to undergo the changes that come with suddenly being scarred, and this is where I began my story. 

This was my first opening:

Quote
There’s no way to transplant an eye. Obvious really. Janine asked, even though she knew the answer.

Men don’t look at her the same, now. They used to give her the one-two-three; check her out. Eyes, tits, beaver. It used to bug her how predictable they were. How their eyes would leave hers, drop to her chest, do a quick side to side before travelling south. If they liked what they saw, and they always did, they would stop and talk, say something cheesy, buy her a drink. Now they see, give her an upwards nod, look away.

Janine’s dad used to say the eyes are windows to the soul.

But I wasn't happy with it - didn't think I had the focus right - I want a burning moment full of emotion, and this isn't it.

The theory behind mindmapping is you put down what interests you about your story, as a note, in the centre of a sheet of paper. Then you note down anything else that comes to mind, circling each thought as you go. When you've got a load of these notes circled, you look at each one and consider which ones link together. Often some very strange connections appear, and these connections can make your story shine.


It's just another technique you can use to initiate a story, or fix one that doesn't quite work, or finish a story that fizzles out in the middle because you don't know what to write next.

Here's the mind map after I felt my first opening wasn't hitting the spot:



So I did the mind map, and what I realised was there is a stronger story waiting in the wings. I'm thinking eye patch = pirate = fancy dress costume = scarred woman in disguise, feeling beautiful again, because her deformity is covered. This is the story I want for my flash - her rediscovering her confidence, having men want her again, just for one night feeling gorgeous. Good one? Dunno, we'll have to see if I can do it justice now. 
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Ed
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« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2007, 10:48:41 AM »

 undecided  I was sure somebody would have something to say about this scratch

Personally, I think it's a very useful technique.  If I hadn't done the mind map, I probably would have blithered my way through an uninspired story and ended up not quite hitting the mark smiley
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« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2007, 01:50:17 PM »

Just seen this. Agree that you've come up with a unique spin on the disfigurement theme, and certainly an interesting mc.
I'd be very interested to read the final product

I've tried them once or twice, but with little success
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Ed
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« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2007, 01:57:43 PM »

Cheers, Dan - I'll post it when I'm happy with it.  Not sure I can do it justice yet, but I'll have a good try.  Don't seem to be able to write a damn thing at the moment - must be the weather or something scratch  I'm still struggling to write something for the current flash challenge.
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2007, 07:12:13 PM »

Just seen this. Agree that you've come up with a unique spin on the disfigurement theme, and certainly an interesting mc.
I'd be very interested to read the final product

http://www.cafedoom.com/forum/index.php/topic,1596.0.html I think I was too late entering it in the comp - didn't realise I'd have to join the damn site to enter, so I was probably a couple minutes past the deadline by the time I'd completed all the forms rolleyes

I had real trouble getting this flash written.  For some reason I can't write anything at the moment without feeling self aware scratch Let me know if you think the story has any merit - I can't judge my own stuff any sense.
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« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2007, 05:54:27 AM »

I' ve only just seen this too. I've already commented on your flash but I will say that your final version is mucho better by leaping into her emotional and sensory experience as you did.

I used to teach mind-mapping like yours to pupils preparing for revision in exams. Occasionally too, to introduce a topic eg volcanoes or flooding, in a class colaboration effort - partly to see what they knew / didn't know and for them to appreciate some of the connections and effects that spring from one idea.

I don't use it so much for stories - maybe I should!

Geoff
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Ed
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« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2007, 04:23:20 PM »

I think it's a handy technique. When I was doing an HNC a few years ago, the lecturer introduced me to the principle, and I found it a useful problem solving tool for complex issues, like time management and critical path analysis.  Come to think of it, we used to number the paths to give things their proper sequence, and then refine the results into a flow chart. In theory, you could do the same thing with a story to produce a plot.

The way I see it, there are three ways to write a fictional story.  There's what I call 'free-writing', which is what Stephen King does - he never knows what's going to happen next, or how the story will end.  You start and then hope something crops up worth keeping.  The good thing about this is that your brain will often spit out lateral connections that, if harnessed in the right way, will add another dimension to your story.  The problem is that you'll often end up with a tale that fizzles out in the middle, because you don't know how to end it, or you'll rush to end it and it'll show.

The second is the plotted story, where you know the end before you start and you write the story to fit the ending you have in mind. The problem with this is you can force the writing and the whole thing can feel very contrived and stale to both writer and reader.

The third is using the mind map, which is somewhere in-between, I think.  The process of making the mind map gives you all those good lateral connections, which are the main advantages of using the free-writing method, but once you see all those connections and appreciate how they interweave, you've got a good chance of seeing a whole story unfold around them, ready to write.

Different methods suit different people, and I don't believe there is a single 'best way' for everybody to write, but I like this one, and I think I'll use it a few more times, to see how it works out smiley
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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2007, 06:31:39 AM »

On radio 4 the other week, I heard a doc about the way Enid Blyton wrote her Miss Marple detective stories. She often didn't know 'who did it' even up to the penultimate chapter. So she'd reread what she'd written and do what was described as a kinda mindmap. She'd then, as we suspected, pick the least likely character to be guilty. Then she'd go back and make the necessary clue changes to support her 11th hour decision. Once she couldn't make up her mind and so made the narrator the guilty one!

Geoff
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