WRITING BY DESIGN
You have a blank canvas before you. Or empty Word doc, cursor taunting you. Note-less staff paper, an empty studio, a bare stage. These all have in common the need for creativity, the spark that changes it from blank and empty to a work of art.
Imagine, if you will—if I may be so bold—the Holy Trinity, pre-creation. Talk about a blank canvas! I’ve always envisioned Them—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—collaborating this project, this planet you and I call home. (no great theological anything to support this, just my dare-I-say Divine imagination) The holy banter as One plunks down a giraffe, Another leaving a divine thumbprint to form the depths of the sea. “Lookit, over here,” One says to the other. “Whaddya think about this?” Okay, I know He spoke it all into being. No modeling clay, no Hobby Lobby for craft supplies. From dandelions to redwoods, from earthworms to the aforementioned giraffes, what of Father’s design for our earthly domicile? Why mountains here and desert there? Why arctic and tropic? So vast is His imagination, His creativity, no one thing, no one piece could encompass it all. I rather see His creativity building momentum, starting with one creature, one plant, one climate, then another. And another. Till He had the vast spectrum we behold.
And for all this seeming randomness, Father had a design in place, a plan in mind. And all for relationship. All for you and me. All to know Him. Now, that’s a design.
Every creative knows the struggle of changing that blank canvas into a masterpiece. And it doesn’t happen easily or readily, no matter the vision, no matter the talent or skill. Some amount or degree of design—the concept—of the finished product must be in the eye of the creator. As a plantzer I write with the end goal in mind, but no clear vision of how I’ll get there.
Still, I have to do my due diligence, I have to design the story. I have to know who my characters are, I have to know the setting, the dynamics between people, the history.
Let’s step back a moment. My blog has a (relatively) new tag—Stories by Design.
It’s a bit tedious all the backstory that went into the name; it’s a combination of factors. One is my degree, BFA in interior design—that’s the design part. A book art project I did, playing off of design elements, Transformation by Design, places my personal story into a design format. The visual of stairs was a critical part of the brainstorming conversation with the professor, and I utilized that in my transformation story. That’s me, on the first interior page, at the bottom, under the bottom step; that’s how I felt, that’s what my life was to me, trapped and unnoticed.
I also placed a robin-bird flying free at the top of each page—except the last one. Without realizing it, she is resting on the final page, at peace, whole and confident.
There are, within the images, elements of a design project—I transformed the small house I lived in into a grande Craftsman cottage home, furniture, décor, and the outdoors. So too, has my life been transformed.
Now, let me be clear, and I offer as this as a disclaimer, a design project cannot be “pantzed,” it must be planned, and meticulously so. There are codes and regulations and specs (specifications) that must be met. You can’t “spec” a flooring product, for instance, and not know how much is needed. All bedrooms must have an exterior egress, a way out.
But stories, for this author at least, are fluid, amorphic, no distinct shape or form. At least not in the beginning.
This is my intent and focus of my blog. My personal posts, my Friday Feature, will be the design process of writing a story. I recently followed along with a blog challenge—I say followed along because I didn’t get any of the challenges done. But each daily challenge spurred ideas in my head, the first and greatest being the mission and purpose of my blog. I’ve the interviews I do—and enjoy—and my New Week New Face guest posts on Mondays. Another coming-soon-feature will be Front Porch Fellowship, a short devotional posted on Sundays. (for now, though, let me get Feature Friday off the ground!)
I follow several blogs, written by knowledgeable writers, blogs on grammar, and topic, and structure, and networking—the blogosphere is glutted with how-to’s, and do’s and don’t’s, and while I don’t doubt my abilities, I also don’t want to put out copycat (not plagiarized) posts. So, here, for your enjoyment, Feature Friday, Writing by Design, is my take on the creative process, the designing of a project. Each week I’ll discuss an element or some aspect of the design process as applies to story writing.
For now though, think about that blank canvas. What is going to fill that space? What colors, what subject matter? Who is it for, who is the audience/reader/client? Where is the beginning and where is the end?
“I once said I should write down all the story ideas in my head so someone could write them someday. I had no idea at the time that someone was me!”
Ms. Mason has been writing since 1995, and began working in earnest on her debut novel, Tessa in 2013. Meanwhile, she cranked out a few dozen poems, and made countless notes for story ideas. Ms. Mason lived with depression for many years, and the inherent feelings of worthlessness and invisibility; she didn’t want to be who she was and struggled with her own identity for many years. Her characters face many of these same demons.
Ms. Mason has lived in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1988. She lived in Colorado for sixteen years, during which time she: went to high school, got married, had babies, got divorced and went to college. Her “babies” are now grown, two have babies of their own. She currently lives alone, with her five cats.
Ms. Mason writes Christian-worldview–in other words, there’s no salvation message, but there are plenty of characters who know the Lord and share His perspective with those who are struggling.
Tessa and Clara Bess, books 1 and 2 in her unsavory heritage series, are both available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. The third book in the series, Cissy, will be available in September, 2016. Ms. Mason also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, http://maryblowers.com, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She will also be working on a personal anthology of poetry to be released in 2016 as well.
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