As a programmer I work with what my Mom would call parameters but what I call requirements—parameters are different to us. Requirements define for me what task I need to accomplish but not necessarily how to accomplish that task. Sometimes these requirements handcuff me to a bench and order me to “Stay there.” Other times the just encourage me to stay put, but they don’t mean I can’t get up to get a drink of water and sit back down.
If you’ve stuck with me through that strained cop metaphor then I applaud you.
I read a post this morning concerning First Ideas. This post asserted that newbie writers latch on to their initial inspiration, but they forget that the inspiration belongs to them and that they are allowed to manipulate, change or discard that idea. Death hugging this idea almost always leads to bad stories. When I read this, at first I felt a little bit baptized—hey, it all seems so clear now…wait, wait, maybe not—but then I brushed the holy water from my brow and went back to my sinning ways.
I like an absolute. I like gravity pulling me down. I like hearing I can do anything I want, but I can’t ignore this one parameter. This one requirement.
Maybe my first idea and their first idea are different things. Or maybe I’m a naive new writer and can’t tell the difference. I think of it this way: some ideas—maybe not the first ones, maybe not the inspired ones—anchor a story. These anchors provide the writer and the reader an immutable structure they adhere to during the course of the story. Down is down.
I’m doing this right now with the Benhá story. I’ve slipped Brother Gane in from the Shanty thread, and I’ve locked him down. This means I bring along some worldbuilt baggage destined to effect Charming’s story in ways I may not have expected at first. However, that baggage—mostly industrial magic and maybe spaceships—works as a backboard to Benhá story development. It helps me, not hurts me.
Requirements like these keep me from speculating crap up.
362 words on day 544