On Writing – Corridors of Imagination*

I recently finished watching the first season of Fringe. What better time to do so since the abbreviated fifth and final season, full of callbacks to first season Fringe cases, is on a mini-hiatus and I discovered the wonderfulness of streaming Amazon Prime videos through my DVD player? I have not re-watched any Fringe episodes and thought hints about the mythology started from the very beginning. How wrong I was. Olivia’s “abilities” aren’t introduced until episode 11 and Walter’s complicity in everything that is happening doesn’t come to light until after that. The writers are able to tie everything from the first half of the season into the overall story (a pretty impressive feat, honestly) but, as a writer, I can’t help but wonder how much of what Fringe turned into – a story about a father’s love for his dead son blinding him to his own hubris and destroying lives and worlds in the process – wasn’t hashed out after Fox gave Fringe a full season one pick up.

Part of me is aghast – they didn’t know the story before they started? That is unfair to the viewer! For the writer in me a light bulb went off. Why should viewers hold television shows to a higher standard than authors? The writing process is the same for both, with two key differences. One, I work alone and only have myself to argue with about plot and character whereas television writer’s rooms are filled with insanely talented people, all with different opinions. Two, no one but me sees or even knows about all of the dropped threads, evolved characters and changing storylines. I cannot imagine having to produce chapters for consumption before I have the novel finished. I would be locked into bad story ideas and thin characters with unrealistic motivations.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Until I heard the phrase, corridors of imagination, I had never thought of the creative process in that way but a more apt description I now cannot conceive. If each corridor is a novel, then each doorway off of it is a story idea, plot point, character motivation or back story. I know where the story starts and where it ends, always, but everything in between is up for grabs. Which doorway will I walk into? Or, as is the case now, which doorway will I stand outside for days and days, knowing exactly what is going on inside but too lazy to open the door. Or maybe I’m inside the room and am staring at a picture on the wall, a description, that I can see but cannot find the perfect words to describe. Then there are times when you open the door to find another corridor, this one brighter, straighter and shorter; or longer, darker and with twists and turns. The decisions on which direction to go can be easy or difficult. Sometimes bright and straight isn’t the right choice to make. The problem isn’t too many choices. Problems arise when there are no choices at all.

I’ve set a goal of finishing the first draft of the mystery by December 31. Unfortunately, I’m standing still and staring at a picture, the perfect words not coming to me. I have to allow myself to not wait for the perfect phrase and to push on through to the other rooms.  Therein lies the rest of my story, anxious for release.

*I freely admit to stealing this phrase from the Wolf Gang frontman who introduced the song, “The King and All of His Men” on Alt Nation. It was too perfect not to steal.

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