Tag: fossil hunting

On extracting stories

I’ve been thinking about  something Darren Groth, Aussie author www.darrengroth.com said recently about Stephen King’s views regarding that sometimes elusive component to writing – extracting the story.

Stephen King likens the stories and the ideas upon which they are founded as ‘fossils’ and writers as ‘archaeologists’ (correct term should be ‘palaeontologists’ if we’re talking about fossils, but let’s not quibble over this often confused term). He goes on to say our job as writers is to extract the story – using everything from jackhammer to toothbrush – to reach its pristine form.

This terminology of locating and extracting ancient fossil treasures in the earthstruck a chord with me (I’ve worked on a fossil dig in Western Queensland) – this is exactly what finding a story is like. And you must sense whether it is time to get down and dirty with the jackhammer and too bad about the damage inflicted. For me, this is the dreaded, mental agony of the first-draft stage.

But the reward is the toothbrush, paintbrush, dental pick, rewriting stage – just like on a fossil dig when the tiniest, most fragile imprint of an ancient pine cone waits to see the light of day. You tease it with the dental tool, you coax it with your toothbrush, you brush away the layers until its there in its pristine form. Ahhhh.

Looking for plant fossils - Elliot Dinosaur Dig camp, Winton, Australia

Well, almost pristine. There is always room for improvement – which is why I appreciate my writing friends – the ones I trust to read my writing drafts and be honest in their opinion; who will pick up inconsistencies or notice when a bit of ‘telling not showing’ creeps in; who share the frustrations, the rejections, the successes of a writer’s life.

Then, there’s the joy of digging through history, researching …. but that is another story.

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