A Writer’s View: Big Damn Rocks

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

I’ve decided to start blogging my writing findings as I work on my first public fiction novel in ages, “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.”  Returning to fiction was a bit tough – which surprised me.  I’ve written a lot of stuff over the last 40 years, but not much fiction the last 10 – but I figured all my editing, consulting, short stories, other works, and generator-development would mean I could dive back in.  Boy I was wrong.a

One problem that struck me is what I call “Big Rocks.”  My guess is you suffer from these too.

Ever have an idea, scene, or concept in a story that seems to just resist any change?  Something that seemed unavoidable no matter how much the plot or characters or scenes changed?  A Big Rock in your story is this immovable, immutable, thing that weighs your story down – and you just can’t seem to get rid of it.  Yet at the same time it restricts your ideas and dreams because you just can’t get rid of that Big Rock – it’s part of the story!


I found a huge, huge problem in working on my new novel is that I’d have these great ideas that I’d never get rid of or change as I’d become dedicated to them – meanwhile the story, characters, and setting had evolved beyond them.  I had all these Big Rocks I just wasn’t willing to get rid of, yet all my other great ideas kept running into them.

The solution was to ditch them.  If you have an idea that squashes all your other ideas, this dense ball that distorts the story like a weight on a rubber sheet, that idea is the problem no matter how great it is.

Art is a dialogue, a give-take, a cycle.  Something that stops that cycle by interrupting you constantly is not good.  You’re better off without it and you don’t need it.

We don’t need to cling to our Big Rocks, those giant ideas that limit us.  We need to keep the process of imagination going.  The Big Rocks are best broken down or walked away from – we may find we can make something better from their fragments or return to them with new insights.  Appreciate them, move on, and see what happens next.

– Steve