The other night I had a bizarre dream. For reasons unknown, in this dream I went back to my old apartment by Ukrainian Village. I still had the keys to the building, so I opened the gate, walked right in, went up to the apartment, and took a bath. The tenants there did not really complain, though they didn't say much of anything. I did notice how they had changed around the apartment and moved the windows to different places, but it didn't seem like something worth mentioning. After all, they had moved the bathroom as well, so who was I to point out these things?
This is where we dig out the old writer's toolbox and bring out the little things we need to turn this into a story. The first tool is simple - a gauge that determines what kind of story we want to tell. If I want to tell this simply as a story about a dream I had, I need to measure out what the reader should take away from it other than the belief that I have weird dreams from time to time. However, I could tell the story in first person, creating a weird reality that keeps the reader guessing until the very end and the big reveal that it was all a dream. That requires some tweaking and moving around of structure, but it's an option. Or I could write it as an interpretive piece, analyzing each section with the goal being to reveal to the reader just how my brain works. Whatever I choose, I need to use this gauge to know just what I want to write, otherwise I am doomed to create something that probably doesn't have much impact.
Now that I am creating the piece, I should get a few mental rulers and compasses out of the toolbox. These aren't too troublesome when we use them properly. These are the tools that make sure our path goes in the right direction with the proper pacing. If I am describing a dream, what parts do I want to focus on? Is the bath the important part? The location of the apartment? The tenants? The fact that they had somehow moved around not only the bathroom but the windows as well? How much interest do they have to the reader and how important are they to my storytelling? If this is a story from the first person, casual mention about people moving windows around can be a dead giveaway that this was a dream, so maybe that gets downplayed or moved to just before the big reveal.
Lastly, the writer's sandpaper comes out. No matter what we write, the sandpaper is is our willingness to make things go smoothly, to fix certain parts and make sure nothing is coarse or takes the reader out of a nice, gentle adventure through the story. It sounds easy, but sometimes when we adjust one piece, other pieces can feel different and we have to balance things out. The final product should have an even flow to it, at least as much as we intend to bring to the reader.
I only make note of these tools because my next few posts will go into more detail about how these tools work and how mastering them can make us better writers. More to come...