Interview with Shannon Hale – On Finding Story Ideas

SH: People often ask me—and I‘m sure you get this, too: How do you come up with so many ideas? Once you start writing, the ideas just keep multiplying.

I can believe this of Hale, since she has been writing for less than a decade and has produced eight novels and two graphic novels, each with different characters and distinct plot. She’s also got a Newbery Honor. Not too shabby.

In the last decade, Smeyer has produced four craptastic novels with no plot and the same characters, a novella set in the same universe, a single short story, and a soft sci-fi book. She’s produced ONE story in the last three years, and it wasn’t even something she wrote in that period.

SM: Yeah. I hate to travel, but I see so many stories in airports.

… despite her protagonists insisting that all those people are boring sheep unworthy of interest.

this whole story just played out right in front of us. There was a man and a woman, and she kept leaning toward him and touching him, and he was always shifting away from her just a little bit, and not meeting her eye. And it was so clear, the inequality in their feelings, and where I imagined their future was heading, I felt I could just run with it.

  1. Oh, how dramatic and unique. A couple was breaking up!
  2. I mean, she makes it sound like a drama of Shakespearean proportions, and it’s just this couple who’s either broken up or about to.
  3. I mean, inject some soap opera antics – illegitimate kids, crime, shocking pasts – and you have something that IS interesting. But this… this isn’t.
  4. It seems kind of creepy that she felt like fantasizing about this couple she didn’t even know.

SH: Yeah, there‘s never a problem with finding ideas; it‘s just finding the time to write it, and the words to tell it.

And those words are “perfect perfect marble topaz perfect perfect incandescent perfect perfect Adonis perfect perfect…”

SM: For me, it‘s time. I don‘t usually experience the kind of writer‘s block that people talk about. My kind of writer‘s block is when I know what needs to happen, and I just have a stumbling block—some transition that I can‘t get past.

Add her to the list of authors who don’t know what the fuck “writer’s block” is.

Look, you dumb bitch, “writer’s block” is not a specific problem. It is a blanket term. It means ANYTHING mental that keeps you from writing. You are not special. DEAL WITH IT.

The longest part of writing Breaking Dawn was writing right after all the action sequences.

… action sequences?! WHAT action sequences?! Did I zone out during an epic battle?!

Bella becoming a vampire—that was very easy—

I’m sure it was. Smeyer’s self-insert becomes a rich, immortal, supermodel-gorgeous vampire of Suey perfection – I expected that to be SO hard to write.

It‘s only half a chapter long—it‘s not very many words—and the amount of time per word put into that section is probably ten times what it was in any other part of the book.

It is SUCH a drag to have to write what went on in the past instead of just focusing on whatever my characters are diddling with right now! Backstory is BORING!

There are just some things that are not exciting, but I like to write minute by minute.

I’ve noticed. That’s why her work is a slog, because we have to read day after day after day of NOTHING HAPPENING.

But your first drafts, I think, are different for you.

“They’re already full of crap. I can only imagine how many chapters with the word ‘perfect’ used twice a sentence have had to be edited.”

SM: I love writing first drafts. I don‘t think about what I‘m doing.

“I just puke my deathless prose onto the page! It’s wonderful to know that people will buy anything I produce, even if I just wipe my nose on a placemat!”

That said, she should consider paying a little attention to Hale’s process. Not only is Hale an author who produces more than just her fantasies of bonking marble statues, but she’s a NEWBERY HONOR author. As opposed to being, you know, the Twilight author. That’s a pretty big gap.

SH: Then you know what we need to do? [Laughs] You need to write first drafts, and then I‘ll rewrite them. And then we‘ll be happy.

I’m in favor of that. If Hale rewrote all Smeyer’s works, maybe they wouldn’t suck anymore. Maybe we wouldn’t have two hundred chapters of “I lust after you!” “I lust after you too!” “But we can’t bonk because the author is Mormon!”

SM: We‘ll combine forces.
SH: But then you‘ll see the book that I‘ve turned it into, and you‘ll be like: What?!

“How dare you remove all these redundant references to Edward’s perfect topaz-eyed perfect marble-skinned perfection! How dare you remove all Bella’s middle-class-white-girl wangst! How dare you give the supporting characters DIMENSION!”

SM: Well, then you‘ll get the rough draft and think: I don‟t want to do anything with this!

… okay, me am confused. Is she seriously suggesting that her rough drafts are so awesome that Hale wouldn’t want to change anything?! Or is she saying that she sucks so bad that Hale would be disgusted by it?

SH: Would you ever collaborate with another writer? Do you think you could do that?

Nope. I just can’t see it. Smeyer’s books are basically literary masturbation. Can you imagine her proposing a collaboration with a BRILLIANT author like Neil Gaiman?

Stephenie Meyer: Now see, I have this brilliant idea. It’s about a girl who looks just like me, and she’s angsty and sad despite being a middle-class white girl in a ridiculously crime-free town, and she’s smarter than EVERYONE else in the stupid town because she reads Jane Austen which means she’s a genius. And she meets this gorgeous guy who’s secretly a faerie, so he’s got GLAMOUR and he shimmers and he’s perfectly white-skinned and he has MAGIC and he fulfills all my bizarre sexual fetishes and he’s thousands of years old, but he’s never seen anyone as beautiful as this girl before. And they instantly fall in passionate abusive controlling LOVE, and they don’t have sex because he’s old-fashioned, but their love is forbidden by the evil Faerie Queen who is blonde and bitchy.
Neil Gaiman: crickets chirping
Stephenie Meyer: I know, right?! It’s just SO brilliant you can’t even say anything!

I really enjoy other writers, and their ideas and their processes. It‘s fascinating.

… which is why every time Hale mentions her own process, Smeyer immediately turns the conversation back to herself.

But I just don‘t think I could write another person‘s character, because I have to really care to be able to write.

They have to either be my Mary Sue, or someone I want to fuck. I could never CARE about someone who isn’t just like me but far more speshul snowflakey!

If I don‘t care about the character, I can‘t finish it. Or if, for some reason, the character has become an unhappy place for me, then I just can‘t go there.

Yes, again this is sounding suspiciously like another hack Suethor who wants to screw “perfect” vampires.

So I have to be in just exactly the right place to be able to write.

Not a virtue for a writer. Was it Isaac Asimov who sat down and wrote every day, even if he didn’t feel like it or wasn’t inspired? I’m sure Smeyer thinks this makes her a speshul sensitive snowflake, but she should take a page from Hale’s book – write even if you don’t feel like it, then reshape it later.

With someone else‘s character… I just don‘t think I could care deeply enough about them to put out the effort that it takes to write a story.

“Like, I couldn’t care if the character was BLOND or ORDINARY or wasn’t obsessed with a hot guy. Or – UGH – was a whole complete person on her own with an upbeat attitude and an active lifestyle! HORRORS!”


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