Emulating the Big Boys: Talking Out a Storyline

“Raiders of the Lost Arc” is a classic movie—action, adventure, humor, engaging hero and heroine, nasty bad guys, exotic locales, and a bit of the occult thrown in for flavor… How do those guys come up with this stuff? If you want to know, read the Story Conference Transcript in which George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Larry Kasdan discuss the movie from basic concept to specific characters and scenes. They bounce ideas off each other, agree, disagree, build up, tear down, and end up with a good idea of where the story is going.

I found the link to the transcript on a message thread in the Writer’s Cafe section of the Kindle Boards, a great place to talk with other authors, get advice, celebrate or commiserate. It got me thinking about the writing process around our home. It usually starts with Chris’ brain putting out some really weird/interesting idea. He kicks it around, writes it down, fleshes it out a bit, and finally outlines a story. Here’s where it gets interesting, for me at least. Now we talk.

We talk while we’re sailing between islands in the Caribbean, driving between conventions in the states, after dinner and a couple of drinks (we can be very creative then)—anytime, really. Our conversations sound a lot like the transcript reads:

How about …?

No, I think it should be a ….

Hey, what if …!

Chris takes our conversation back to his laptop and maybe incorporates elements into the story. My favorite instance is when we were walking along a dirt road on Acklins Island in the Bahamas. Chris was fleshing out Scimitar’s Heir, the third book in the Scimitar Seas Trilogy published by Dragon Moon Press.

“Wait!” you say. “There are four books in that series!”

Right you are. We were discussing a particular character, and I said, “What if…” (No, if you haven’t read the book, I’m not going to spoil it.), and Chris said, “Damn! I’m going to have to write a fourth book!” Which he did. And now he tells everyone that the fourth book is my fault. That’s not a bad thing!

The same process applies whether it’s a novel that Chris is writing, a travel article that I’m writing, or a short story or trilogy that we’re co-writing. Sometimes the conversations can become a mite heated, but it all works out in the end.

So, that’s a little bit about how the creative process works here at Jaxbooks. We’re interested in knowing how other people knock around their story ideas. With a friend/spouse/significant other? Online? In a writers’ group? Or do you never discuss a story until it’s all done? Let’s start a discussion!

Warning: The Story Conference Transcript is ninety pages long, so make sure you’ve got a cup of coffee and a snack before you start reading. My favorite line in the transcript?

“It’s a villain monkey.”


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