Yeah, I said planning, not writing, because I’m a plotter. Those doubts have crept in, though.
“Just write it already.”
“You know, the story you know you’re going to write anyway after you’ve thought about it for too long.”
I look at my notes. I turn on the computer. I create a new file. Then stop.
Reading Craig Johnson’s latest and Catriona McPherson’s first have convinced me to keep planning. I don’t know if either of these writers is a plotter or a pantser, but I stand in awe of their careful attention to detail in each scene. So finely drawn, but never too much. I never get bogged down in those details, but I do sometimes stop just to admire such excellent craftsmanship. (Or is it just raw talent that I don’t have that critical voice interjects?)
Then there’s that extra touch of the theme strung so carefully all through. Just touches. Probably not all readers even notice it. Take Spirit of Steamboat for example. It’s a Christmas story. Our hero, Walt Longmire, is reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in the first scene. Johnson uses brief allusions to the story throughout his piece, like a sardonic thought from the sheriff. After a long list of difficulties he’s facing, he adds, “God bless us, every one.” The novella is full of these little touches. They don’t call attention to themselves, but they do elicit a laugh, a feeling of wholeness. They add that extra something.
That’s what I want to do. Have something so well crafted that I lace it with the extra touches that make it shine. McKee (Story) calls it an image system. Certain images, turns of phrase are associated with each character. In Johnson’s case, he always includes an overriding image system for his whole novel.
I love it and am planning to emulate this. I’m learning from you, Mr. Johnson. But for me, creating a sense of the whole through an overriding theme takes planning. So for now, that’s what I’m going to do.