Shilo Christina says, All I write are scenes
I say, I think that was all we were taught.
We both come from the same school of literature. A mess of kids learning to write through huddled groups on the internet, sharing first their characters, then their backgrounds, eventually tiny scenes that should evolve into something more. A deep, dark motive somewhere lost in handwritten sheets and development notes. A motive that quickly gets blackened out through the course of the tale. It continues on, with no real end. One or two or three or more of us, trading people, trading scenarios until it falls apart under our feet, leaving us with no plot, no ground to stand on, nothing but a few paint chips of characters to try and color with, but nothing that ever is whole again.
It is hard to say it taught us nothing, when, in fact, it was so good to us. But for all it gave us, group storytelling, it kept us from one, real thing – the strings that really hold a story together, the line that our characters should have followed before, during and after The Plot in a story and not just the pieces that made it.
It was something that some of us grasped, some of us didn’t. People like me? We’re in the latter half. It was never about that. It was always about the scenes. Setting the stage. Putting the character in the right moment and getting the feeling across just right. It’s easier when you’re not writing the entire equation. You worry about what you do best.
For me? It was atmosphere, stolen moments, quiet conversation and feeling. It was how I learned to tell a story. The ends of scenes all wrap up tight enough to let the reader lean back and sigh. They’ll want to look away for a moment. They’ll turn the page because of everything but the thin line that holds it all together. For me, for us, at that time, it was good enough.
Sometimes, people like me. People like Shilo. We worry it isn’t enough.
But, that was how we learned to tell stories. Stories about boys who are spitting their bloodied teeth into the sink basin after a fight and girls in golden shorts who are riding their bikes down the road. I wrote stories upon stories about a on-again, off-again romance between a drug addled teenager and someone who was practically a ghost. I wouldn’t trade it – it was a great way to learn, it was absolutely, positively perfect.
But in the end, I wish I did more.
Alone, I’ve struggled with plot-lines and story-telling techniques far more times then I’ve documented anywhere. And when I write for plot, it seems dead-on-arrival. I shake my head as I’m writing down the lines.
In the end, we learned to tell moments. In the end, it’s about how we can string them together, as thin as possible, without breaking itself under it’s weight.