It starts out small, a faint outline. Sometimes that outline is obscured, reducing it to a nebulous blob; only time can clear the mist and restore its purpose. Over the course of time, it reveals something spectacular to behold. It remains illuminated for a short span of time, then fades away. Until the cycle restarts anew.
Plotting, (actually) writing and publishing a story is akin to the phases of the moon, played out in varying spans of time – it’s happening everywhere, at all times, though the vantage points and illumination is different for each person. For some, the actual timetable from inception to completion is a long road, rife with distractions, digressions and difficulties (oh my!). The (general) idea is there, (most of) the characters are created, with assigned personality traits and narrative arcs. For others, the River of Narration flows consistently (if not coherently), and full formed stories (of various lengths) is born.
Admittedly, I’m among the former, endlessly plotting and pondering all the angles, exploring all the possibilities and reworking narrative arcs. The Mist of Digressions and the Haze of Distractions leads to prequels and sequels, and opens the Door to Universes Parallel. The Land of Exposition was partly borne from quasi-absurd ideas from meandering Muses from parts unknown. That tiny nugget of an idea expands in ways unforeseen, growing in every direction, with tangents into the realm of “what if?” and “if/then”.
The Invasion of the Real Life Brigade and the Game of Genres that resulted illuminates the dangers of an imagination allowed to run rampant with a (seemingly) endless supply of caffeine, chocolate, and cheese (a tasty combination, in my opinion). Collaboration and compromise are key, and the effort to maintain consistency is critical. Too many wild ideas will slow down progress (and the process), wherein characters and situations remain locked in the Vault of Quasi-Formed Plots.
Every story – regardless of genre, media or length – has a beginning, middle and end, though the order in which those fall is relatively subjective. The creation of a story (as well as its characters) has a beginning, middle and (eventual) end as well, and that path has infinite branches, with its pitfalls into the Abyss of Lost Ideas. The characters of a story have a journey, at the end of which lies discovery, redemption or revenge (or a combination thereof); the actions taken (or not taken) have consequences (beneficial or adverse) that could affect the overall outcome (or create a tear in the fabric of time and space, destroying the universe as we know it).
The possibilities are endless, and the cycle is never ending.
Like the phases of the Moon.