Every Story is Different

For me, every story I write, long or short, is different. Even those which seem to be much the same, like the three Rikard Braeth novels, or the six Elf Quest stories, have subtle differences in structure, or style, or depth. This becomes more and more true as time goes by.

Right now I’m working on a story, number two of twelve, for a collection I call Star Kings. It’s an old idea, which came to me some years after Elf Quest, when I wanted to write more stories like those, but set them in a different place and time and about a different people. It took me years to figure out how I had made the Elf Quest stories work.

I had just finished the antepenultimate read-through of Heart of the Fey, reading aloud for text, and I needed a break before my last two read-throughs, for story and performance, and since I had one Star Kings story, writing a second one seemed like a good idea.

Star Kings takes place in an unknown future, the technology so high that it can’t be described let alone explained. But what makes it difficult is that, unlike all my other stories, long or short, it has to be constructed, not grown. No part of it, aside from human nature, is drawn from the familiar. I invented the giant space station city, the star-dive spindleships, the Star Kings’ culture, and the cultures of the aliens with which they share the Cold Star Cluster, and the Great Cloud which hides and protects them the civilizations in the limb of the galaxy. I do draw on what I know abuot the real world, but in Star Kings it’s all different. What makes it like my Elf Quest stories is, that these are about ordinary people, doing ordinary things in their own bizarre context.

I am also having to construct the stories themselves, one at a time, and not just let them happen. Stories, after all, are constrained and shaped by their larger context, the world, the over-all situation, and this time all of these things are being built. It’s a very different way of working for me, though many books on writing have advice on how and why you should do it that way.

When I finish story two, I’ll go back to Heart of the Fey, which, despite the maps and the research and the creation, is a story that grew. Then after that is published, I’ll do story three for Star Kings. Then I’ll do as much more as I can with The Empty House, which is perfectly organic. If I need a break from that, I’ll construct another Star Kings story. And so on until the whole collection is done. It will take a while.

I will never write anything like this again. I would rather grow my stories than build them. But I’ve been thinking about Star Kings for years. I have a handle on it now. I have sketches for all twelve stories in a perfect arc from first to last.

And Darcy has already done the cover.


  1. This is an interesting post . Building , creating or constructing a story or tale is a creative process.
    All of your professional and personal knowledge comes into play, and for someone reading about how this process takes place , it is so difficult to explain.
    The time, effort and “outside of the box” imaginative and intuitive creative process can be intimidating to someone with much less experience .
    So, it would be interesting to atrend one of your writers workshops in order to explore our unique perspectives .
    Thanks for sharing !

  2. One of the problems with books on how to write is that every writer is different, and there is no book especially for that writer. I have had over 150 such books, but trimmed it down to less than a hundred. There are very few that I can recommend, and none without weaknesses or flaws.

    It’s the same with workshops. My Writer’s Workshop, invented by the late agent James Allen more than thirty years ago, is general, and tries to help those attending to understand what they have done well and where they can improve, given a brief writing exercise which they produce on the spot with no time to think. My Plotting workshop leads the participants through a process of thinking about what is necessary to turn an idea, or several ideas, into something that really could be a story. Everybody who has taken the workshops reacts differently to them, as they should.

    My next workshops will be at MarsCon, in Williamsburg VA, Jan 12-14 2018. I’ve updated my Conventions page, and you can find out more about them there.

    Sometimes, it’s the conversations after the workshop which helps most, the writer and the teacher.

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