Yesterday after spending the better part of the day with my 101-year-old grandma and doing my grocery shopping, I came back home, took off my bra, put on a Youtube playlist of Minecraft videos, and worked on a story that you will probably never read.
"But, Abby!" you'll exclaim. "Why would you write something if no one will ever read it?"
The notebook open in front of me right now has four different stories started. One of those stories is a version of what will be the next novel, but you wouldn't recognize it as such. The other three are, at present, absolutely nothing. There are a lot of reasons why a story might sit on a hard drive or in a notebook in a box and never see the light of day. I can't claim that this will be a comprehensive list, but this will be an examination of some of the primary reasons I leave stories to rot.
Reason 1: These characters are boring/annoying/distasteful. Sometimes I think up characters and think they're the greatest thing since sliced bread, but as soon as I start writing their story they turn out to have that one interesting thing about them and everything else is rather boring for me to write about. Or they turn out to be someone I can't stand, which makes for a challenge when they're supposed to be the main character (there's a separate blog to talk about writing characters you personally hate).
Reason 2: The story is boring.
The best characters can't always make up for a bad plot. One of the things that has stuck with me from my college fiction classes is the question "why do I (the reader) care about this story". This can be as simple as "this character is interesting and I want to know more about them". But even the most fascinating character has to be put in situations and allowed to walk around. Occasionally, in the process of putting a character through their paces it turns out that the world they inhabit is not interesting to me. No matter how hard I practice my writing, I have yet to figure out how to make a plot that is boring to me into a bigger story.
Reason 3: A better idea comes along.
I never know when a new story idea will catch my fancy and distract me. That new story might not turn out to be anything, but if I can't stop thinking about it, I need to write it down to stop it from keeping me awake at night plotting.
Reason 4: I was writing to keep the writing muscle in shape.
I've been making up stories for as long as I can remember. In a box somewhere in my house is a Trapper Keeper filled with faded pieces of paper that were the pride of my elementary-aged self. These will never be read by anyone but me while I am alive. Occasionally it is good for me to go back and read old stories to remind myself how far I've come. A while back, I read a novella I wrote some years ago and live-chatted my reactions to a friend. A highlight of the conversation was:
I was laughing as much at myself from that time as I was the story that I created. Every one of the stories that fails paints a picture of my life at the time I wrote it, which leads to:
Reason 5: I just needed to write something down.
There are more than a handful of stories I wrote because something happened to me that I needed to process and I processed it by turning it into a story. The point of most of these stories is just for me to write out my own reactions and the potential reactions of other parties. Often, these are idealized versions of all involved people, which is cathartic for me but doesn't always make for the best of fiction. You may want to read my therapeutic fiction, but I don't necessarily want you to read it.
There are approximately a million more reasons I could think of that would help explain why a story might never leave the dark corners of my computer, but the reasons above are the easiest to explain. Now I'll attempt to go back to yesterday's story going nowhere and see what comes of it. Maybe the next blog will be a treatise on why I keep watching Minecraft videos.