Which got me thinking. How do we as authors chose among all the various choices our subconscious (the ocean of creative chaos) throws at us?
My closest older sister is a free-lance artist and so is my youngest sister (I'm right between them so in me the creativity ends up in word pictures rather than picture pictures). In high school and college I got very accustomed to hearing my younger sister's wails of "I can't decide!" in regard to color, placement, background, how many trees... you get the idea. Being a typical older sister and, after learning the hard way that any suggestions from me were wrong, wrong, and are you kidding?!, my reaction was usually the unhelpful "I don't know. What works for the picture?"
The same applies to writing. There are so many choices when writing a story. What do the characters look like? What is the planet/city like? What are the important parts of the culture (if one has to be created rather than using the default)?
And then there's what person do you write in?
It’s all Aunt Paige’s fault. At least, that’s what my Dad says. He’s her younger brother, though, and brothers always blame their sisters. I should know; my younger brother is an absolute pest.
I suppose you could say that exploring is in our blood. Grams was a Survey Scout. She found this planetary system and later signed up as a colonist. Her daughter, my aunt, is an explorer. She started off exploring this planet for the colony, looking for minerals or following up stories about odd animals. Nowadays she’s exploring the other planets of the system. Dad says it won’t be long before she heads out system, but I’m hoping she waits until I’m out of school and can go along. Aunt Paige always asks how I’m doing in school, so maybe she will wait.
First person is popular nowadays, especially in YA. But third person can be a fun choice, too.
“I’ve decided to study the meteor for my science fair project,” Akela announced at breakfast. She smiled brightly as she glanced around the room.
Her mother had her fork and eyebrows raised. Her father finished scooping the last of the eggs from the skillet onto his plate and moved to the table. “This is all Paige’s fault,” he sighed.
But first person has possibilities.
My dad has the most fantastic rock collection. Well, he would, seeing as how he’s the geologist for Caellora – the whole colony planet, not just the main settlement. But the part I love looking at the most are the rocks he got from Grams, the ones she kept from her Scout days, before she found Caellora and decided to settle down. There is dust from a moon of Strawberry II, obsidian from a volcano on Whoneedsyou, a bit of meteorite from a crater near a long-dead city on Lostdreams, and even a chunk of limestone from Earth. The limestone has a fossil fern in it.
Caellora has no limestone. It never had life before Grams found it. Then the prospectors and miners came out and after them the big terraforming ships.
Decisions, decisions. What works best? Will more than one point of view be needed for this story? If yes, then third person would be better. If no, then first person.
How to restrain and discipline (back to that one little hamster paw on the dividing line between the chaotic sea and water bottles) an overactive imagination or, even better, filter the choices down to "yes, that's it" or "nope, save that for another story"?
Deadlines are one big help. When I don't have time to indulge little sidetracks, I can focus on the main story very well. Beta readers are another valued aid. But sometimes all I can do is write that little sidetrack and see where it takes me. Perhaps it dwindles down into a tiny path that vanishes into a cliff face. But maybe it might instead open out into a bigger and better story.
What technique works for you?