I’m frequently asked about my writing process.
When do I write?
Where do I write?
How do I write?
When? Mornings and evening, mostly. I like to use my afternoons for running errands and taking naps. Yes, I take naps. Discovered them in college following late nights of, ahem, studying. I love naps.
Where? In my apartment, either at my desk or on my couch with my laptop. I’m one of those rare, bizarre writers who isn’t hooked up to a caffeine IV drip, so going to a cafe to write is mostly pointless. Plus I’m easily distracted. And at a cafe, I don’t have my cats curled up on either side of me.
How? I’m like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I make it up as I go.
Generally, I get an idea for a story, or where I want to begin, and then I start writing. I don’t know how my story is going to end. Or, at the very least, how I’m going to get there. I may have some vague concept of where I’m going but when I get to my final destination it may not be where I thought I was going to end up. It’s kind of like the difference between going on a guided tour where everything is planned out and going exploring on your own. I like to discover the story as I’m writing it.
When I wrote Fated, and my first novel, Breathers, I didn’t have definite endings for either of them when I started but rather a general idea of what might happen. The eventual endings to both novels developed from the actions of the characters.
When asked about plotting, Robert Heinlein said: “My notion of a story is an interesting situation in which a human being has to cope with a problem, does so, and thereby changes his personality, character, or evaluations in some measure because the coping has forced him to revise his thinking. How he copes with it, I can’t plot in advance because that depends on his character, and I don’t know what his character is until I get acquainted with him.”
I agree. Plotting out what my characters are going to do before they have a chance to get there doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t know how my characters will react to certain situations until I put them in those situations, so I can’t tell them what they’re going to do ahead of time until I get to know them. Otherwise, I’m just forcing my will upon them. Instead, I tend to let my characters’ actions dictate where the plot is going to go.
Of course, not knowing where you’re going can sometimes lead to moments of complete and absolute terror when you’re two-thirds of the way through the manuscript and you’re not sure what’s going to happen in the third act. But it’s worked for me so far, so I’m sticking with it.
One of the other questions I’m often asked is:
Where do I get my ideas?
Ideas are funny things. Sometimes they’re as prevalent as Starbucks and other times, they’re as hard to find as good customer service. You can sit in front of your computer for hours and try to come up with a good one without any luck and then have one pop into your head without any warning while you’re standing in line at Safeway.
I’ve had ideas that developed into novels or short stories come to me in a variety of forms: random conversations; song lyrics; dreams; standing in line at an ice cream parlor; sitting in front of an annoying little girl on an airplane; TV commercials; a Jack the Ripper tour; a newspaper article; an hourglass in an antique store; a trip to a place called Lower Slaughter in England; Greek mythology; a painting by René Magritte; a moment standing by the bank of the Stanislaus River; staring at a poster from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers; sitting on a bench in New York’s Central Park; and getting stuck sixty miles south of the Mexican border with a broken water pump.
So ideas can come from just about anywhere.
For example, you can sit down to write down an idea for a short story in your journal, this great idea that just came to you out of nowhere, a gift from the ether, one of the best ideas you’ve ever had, only to discover that as the idea is flowing from your brain to the printed page, the idea isn’t nearly as brilliant as it first seemed. But while writing down this idea that sounded better in your head than it does on paper, you stumble upon another idea with far more promise, something that doesn’t take shape for another year.
Which is how Fated was conceived.
The original idea, the fantastic one that turned out to be not-so-much, involved some generic supernatural event that happened to some generic normal guy. Obviously brilliant. An original notion, without question. I have no idea where I was going with it. But not wanting to give up on whatever it was that prompted me to sit down and start writing in the first place, I kept journaling, throwing out an occasional “maybe this” and a few “maybe thats,” until I stumbled upon the idea that this character lives in Manhattan and has first hand knowledge about certain events because he’s Fate.
At the time I didn’t pursue the idea any further than that. But ten months later, while sitting on a bench at a shopping mall, watching people walk past and wondering what their futures held for them, I tapped back into the idea about Fate and wrote the first couple of pages of what would eventually become the opening chapter to Fated.
But like I said, when I’m writing I tend to channel my inner Indiana Jones, so I just allowed Fate to take me where he wanted to go. Which is really the only option you have when you’re dealing with Fate. Unless, of course, he starts to break the rules.
But that’s another story…
S.G. Browne is the author of Breathers, a dark comedy about undeath through the eyes of an ordinary zombie. Think Fight Club meets Shaun of the Dead, only with the zombies as the good guys. His second novel, Fated, a satirical, supernatural comedy about fate, destiny, and the consequences of getting involved with humans, has nothing to do with zombies.
A California native, he attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA, where he majored in business until he eventually realized that he wanted to be a writer. After college, Scott worked in Hollywood for several years doing post-production work for the Disney Studios before moving to Santa Cruz, where he lived for fourteen years writing novels and short stories and working as an office manager.
His writing has been influenced by Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, Kurt Vonnegut, and the films of Charlie Kaufman and Wes Anderson, among others. He lives in San Francisco.
You can learn more about Breathers and Fated at www.sgbrowne.com.