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I've always wanted to write fiction, but I've been afraid I'd sooner or later be limited by my lack of exposure to the world (or having any desire thereof). I barely watched television growing up, so my knowledge of pop-culture has always been abysmal; I'm that guy who never saw any popular or classic movie. I thought Tebow was a new kind of TiVo for at least a day or two when his name was all over the tabloids. (I don't remember what the actual news was, despite friends having explained it to me.) I don't remember anything that's not important to me, like people's names, restaurant names, and dates of events.

Meanwhile, I seem to have uncanny recall for things surrounding emotions that matter to me, like how a certain string of words, casually remarked by a friend while driving him to work, actually revealed a hint of an insecurity (as I was making a left turn onto Lusk Blvd on a Tuesday morning).

Outside the "emotional" scenarios however, I feel completely oblivious to the world. Furthermore I feel unworldly, because I've never traveled, nor do I feel very much desire to travel—there's so much to do in my room alone!

Despite all this, I feel I may have developed a relatively rich understanding of people, having played an unofficial role of "therapist" for many friends, sometimes even strangers. I think that I may be able to write something that "befriends" and communicates a new idea to even the most "closed-minded" of people. (For example, it seems "closed-minded" people are only closed to things they perceive as a threat, so if you show them you mean no harm—that you're not there to threaten the beliefs that subconsciously uphold their feeling of self-worth, but instead ready to forgive all wrongs and promise unconditional respect despite whatever they may believe—then in my experience, they tend to open up. Admittedly, I am a bit of an idealist.)

But how do I make a story out of such abstract thoughts, if I have nothing concrete to work with? I'm afraid that I'll never become a good writer, because though I may possess all the floor plans, I have no brick with which to manifest my ideas.

It would be greatly encouraging for me to know if I'm not alone in being and feeling this way, e.g. if there are well-known authors who write despite having this personality, and I'd want to read whatever I could find about their process of writing. Perhaps it's merely an extreme case of a relatively common issue that authors have? I wonder things like: Is it possible to write an entire story abstractly,

[Here, Megan says something that betrays that she's hopeful, despite insisting she's indifferent.]

[At this point in the story, Jason should do or say something that reveals a non-malicious but still condescending or patronizing attitude toward Esther.]

[Somewhere around here, the phrase "run away from your problems," needs to be stressed, as it's a phrase that Jane is sensitive to and easily misconstrues.]

and fill in the actual details later? (Has a well-known story ever been written this way?) But I don't know where else to ask such a "personalized" question. I apologize in advance if this question isn't a good fit for the site; I understand if it is too specific to my case to likely help future visitors and thus needs to be closed.

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closed as too broad by Neil Fein Jul 21 '14 at 21:19

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Hi, and welcome to Writers. You have the kernel of a good question here, but it needs to be boiled down to something more concrete. What's the real question you want to ask? How do you come up with a plot? How do you attach your musings to a structure? Figure out what you're driving at and we may be able to help you. Also, browse previous posts for similar questions. – Lauren Ipsum Jul 19 '14 at 15:12
Also, please ditch the "literary fiction" idea. When you're writing, there's just fiction. Genre is only relevant for marketing. Don't fall into the trap of thinking "literary" fiction is somehow superior to "niche" genre fiction like sci-fi or romance or YA. Some of the biggest-selling books of all time are "niche" (Harry Potter) and not "literary." – Lauren Ipsum Jul 19 '14 at 15:14
Thanks, @LaurenIpsum. I did browse before posting the question and found questions about writing about a subject you don't know much about, but couldn't find much in the way of abstract versus concrete. Perhaps I searched by ineffective terms however—I'll give it another shot, and I'd appreciate if you or others could link me to such a question as well. – Andrew Cheong Jul 19 '14 at 18:35
I have to agree with Lauren, the specific question needs to be brought out here. As it is, the question is more of a discussion starter and would fit a web forum better. But there might be a good question at the core here. Maybe we should put this on hold and discuss the question in meta? Any objection? – Neil Fein Jul 19 '14 at 20:05
Let's say, utter lack of knowledge about the Wild West didn't stop Karl May from releasing immensely successful "Winnetou". The book is ridiculously off-base when it comes to any historical truths and reality, but it reads as a great adventure and the world is internally consistent and believable (even if utterly fake), so it makes for a very entertaining read for everyone except those who actually have a good clue about life on the frontier. – SF. Jul 25 '14 at 17:08

It looks like what you have written in your example is an outline, not a story. I think it's perfectly possible to go through and write an outline in the manner you have described, but the primary story-writing work will take place when you go through and fill in all the blanks you left when creating the outline.

I empathize with your dilemma, but it's important to realize that you do eventually need to fill in the details. It sounds like you do have all the "brick" you need to start writing a story- your story will just be driven by the characters, not by the world they inhabit. You'll make good, realistic characters that cope with their world and their problems in ways the readers can connect to. You do, however, need to come up with some problems that they need to cope with - all of which can be character-driven.

I don't know anything about the writing processes of authors, but I do believe that you can learn to write by reading. Here are some books you can read that are primarily character-driven:

  • An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, where the main action and problems revolve almost entirely around a single character. (Many of John Green's other works are also character-driven, including Paper Towns. I did not include The Fault in Our Stars because the primary problem those characters face is external, namely their cancer, although it does feature excellent characterization.)
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, which is a romantic comedy. Most romances are, of necessity, character-driven.
  • Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson. Although it includes a magical forest, it is an escape dreamed up by the main characters involved.
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, for a story where the setting is important, but it would be meaningless without the powerful characterization.

These books have plots that revolve around the character's problems and what they do about them. The setting in these books is not as important, and there are no magical effects or otherwise external situations that impact the character's behavior. These books are all about people.

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protected by Neil Fein Jul 19 '14 at 20:05

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