Way Marks – Marking the Trail of a Story in the Making

I’m late with this week’s post. Apologies and all of that are given knowing that no one will protest overly much because all of our lives have a significant sense of uncertainty, especially here in the year 2020. I have just returned from another week at my son’s home and enjoying being “Père,” the name my grandchildren in this house use for me. It was their rendition of Pépère, the familiar term for Grandpa in French. The children are one, three, and ten years of age. Each day saw me turning in not long after them so that I would have the energy to play at full speed the next day. Being present in life at their home leaves no time for writing of any kind.

Anyway, to get to today’s post, “way marking” I need to preface this with a discussion my son and I were having about trekking watches. I use a Garmin and he is considering what kind to get for himself. That conversation will be ongoing as this type of decision is one that demands a lot of research and second thoughts before one buys a trekking watch. I talked about how I used the watch while walking in Amsterdam and other European cities and how by placing markers or “bread crumbs” as they are also called, along the way, the watch would be able to take me back to my starting point without getting lost. It’s a great feature to have in a trekking watch, especially when one heads into the wilderness areas.

It dawned on me, while we were talking, that I have been doing much the same with some of the stories that I am writing, especially the historical fiction efforts. Without placing “way marks” there is a greater tendency for me to drift off. Having a way mark allows me to chart a way back to the main story line. In a way, it is helping me avoid the black holes of fiction writing.

One of the biggest black hole problems for me, and I suspect for many others who write naturist fiction, is the plot line that has nudity as a background condition rather than having nudity as the action and dialogue focused on nudity. Dwelling overmuch on nudity when it is the “normal” state, takes a writer down pathways that shift the focus from being “normal” to more of “why” and “how” the characters are nude. As soon as one embarks of one of these side extensions, it becomes difficult to get back to the story line. Too often, the story line is abandoned for the diversion which then becomes a tangential story. It gets complicated.

With way marks, one is always aware that one needs to return to the main story, and where that needs to happen. If you are a writer, how do you ensure you don’t get taken off the main story plot line, never to return?

6 thoughts on “Way Marks – Marking the Trail of a Story in the Making”

  1. My solution to this, in Ages of Aenya at least, was to have nudity totally normal for the main characters, Xandr and Thelana, but a source of conflict for when they meet others who do not share their view. It could have been easy to write about a naked planet, where every human is nudist, but then the nudity would serve no function. In every culture outside of Ilmarinen (the naturist home of the heroes), nudity is treated with scorn, typically as a sign of barbarism. Throughout the course of the book, however, Xandr and Thelana prove that despite their penchant for constant nudity, they are anything but brainless, violent, perverted barbarians.

    I am currently working on a novella where, for about 90% of the story, the only character is Thelana, and she goes nude 24/7. That story is mainly about survival, so the nudity is only hinted at. I use it to show how the character connects to nature, through the oft-neglected (in the literary tradition) sense of touch, but I also do not shy away from the challenges of living without the protection of clothing. It’s basically ‘Naked and Afraid’ meets Jurassic Park.

    1. Thanks, Nick. Of course you are correct, that when naturism becomes part of the conflict, it is vital to wade into this tangent which is anything but a black hole … unless the author leaves the original plot to wander in the tangential world of conflict, never to return to the original plot.

  2. Thanks for the very appropriate metaphor of way-marking, Robert. I know in my case I often have points out in the future of the narrative that I am looking to hit – I may have even written them out already – and so the marks are there for me to aim at as I go along. Of course, they can and sometimes do change, but even then they serve the purpose of marking a path that the narrative is going to lead away from.

  3. Thanks, Will. I use these way points as well. Way points are not the same as plotting the story. Way points are vital for a pantser such as myself, reminding me that the idea is to get back to the main story, somehow in a way that isn’t too contrived.

  4. I am writing my stories with a starting and ending station, like a railway. Nudity will be mentioned where needed, sometimes by pointing out those who are dressed. I try never to lose track of the story line. Nudity is important but not the main thing in the story.
    At least not until now. 🙂

    1. Good image of keeping to the main plot, on a train from start to end. It’s hard to go off track following that process.

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