Second in the Brainstorming Series. Read Brainstorming: The Beginning where this all began.
Whenever we first conceive of a work, there’s something that grabs our attention. The central conflict, or a great battle scene, or the microblackhole that passed in front of his eyes, distorting the world as it passed. (hey……!) Whatever it is, it’s shiny and wonderful, and we’ve got to have it in the story. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Most of my works retain the SO that triggered the entire plot exercise. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle once rearranged the entire orbit of a planet in order to keep one line with which they both were smitten.
However, shiny objects can have a deadly allure. they cause you to forget plotting, or do poor plotting, just because they are so shiny. Worse, like that microblackhole, they begin to accrete other SOs towards them. Suppose that you have a five-legged alien that runs off of an organic atomic battery. Sounds way cool (and theoretically possible). But you can’t leave the idea alone. Where does the shielding come from? Well, the alien has to ingest rock to get lead for shielding…but maybe they have the equivalent of cows that also run off of atomic batteries. Hmmm…maybe the process is cumulative throughout life, with death occurring when the atomic battery finally generates so much energy that the organism is cooked from within. Yeah–go with that! Scenes of aliens walking (how do you walk with five legs?) down the street and very occasionally one bursts into flames. Heh! That’s a shiny scene–how can we incorporate that into the work? Wait, they’re in space. Maybe a flashback?
Then the guy in the striped shirt runs out, blows the whistle, and signals ‘delay of game’. After all, there’s supposed to be a PLOT happening, and all we’re doing is wondering if we should glue this chromed bike sprocket or that blue flower onto our shiny object.
Here’s how I put it to my brainstorming partner over the course of a few emails:
Consider this: Perhaps you don’t have to include everything from your dream sequence. Dreams are, by their very nature, somewhat chaotic. Maybe you could discard aspects that are difficult to fit into the remainder of the narrative (“Yes, doc, but in my dream, I had a colander strapped to my head. It doesn’t make sense, what does that mean?”)
Resist the lure of the shiny object. Sure, it’s fascinating, but the story is always more important than technology.
Cool technology is like cake icing: it’s the last thing considered when crafting the story, but the first thing often imagined. What’s the story? Worry later about the tech, craft the story. Bake the cake first, THEN ice it.
She had been trapped by the lure of the Shiny Object, and was neglecting the creation of the central story. It reminded me of the Epic Death Scene for one of my 3 Day Novel entries. I have the evil alien thrown against the busbars of an electrical substation. Fun! Sparks, sizzling, epic deathedness. But the compressed timetable of 3 Day does not allow a writer to wallow around in a vat of shiny–you have to be writing the rest of the story! It was a point I have not forgotten.
The lesson here? Love your shiny object, then put it away and concentrate on the story, the plot, and those essential questions I asked in the previous post. Or you’re never going to get the essential stuff done.