Here is a sample of some story mapping I did recently. The majority of what this resulted in I’ve decided to scrap. I think it counts as one of those “writing outside of your story” exercises though. It helped me figure out where I was going and where I didn’t want to go.
The questions I was trying to answer were inspired by Bill Ransom’s lecture to our class. I ultimately decided Bill’s advice was best suited for aspiring novelist, which I am (currently) not.
What is the conflict of my story?
Growing up. The struggle exists in the mind of a young man who struggles with nostalgia. He aches for the past, despite the past being just as painful as the present. He remembers it in a rose tint. It’s what he knows, it already happened so there’s no mystery to what will come of it, only what could’ve been.
It also has to deal with the weird confrontations we have with our own consciousness. We suggested to ourselves, as if out of the blue, to commit suicide. We stand in front of a mirror, like a word being repeated over and over, being to lose all sense of who we are.
It’s also called The Rites of Longing, so I think it should be broken up into multiple segments, i.e. Rites. A scene about music making him cry ultimately dealing with his recollection of 9/11, a scene about suicide, maybe the music is a motif, a scene about the mirror.
What’s it about?
So he sets out to investigate why he is in the grip of nostalgia. If that is the case then there needs to be almost constant flashbacks from the present to the past. Nostalgic triggers are everywhere and the world he lives in isn’t the world he was born in. He just wants to go back, back to irresponsibility, innocence, naiveté. The story will blend past and present at the drop of a hat, in a dream like manner. It will be humorous yet deeply melancholic—because that is part of nostalgia, not knowing what your so pensively sad about.
I think he’s trying to find meaning in the past, to figure out how to make the present meaningful.
How will the conflict play out?
He could go out trying to investigate why he’s so nostalgic, why Obstacle 1 makes him cry. Trying to figure out why there is so much emotion welled up with this song could open up the rabbit hole of where nostalgia comes from and what he’s most nostalgic for.
You never know if he’s laying in bed thinking or communicating with another person directly. It could all take place in memory.
But it needs to be known that the “I” isn’t myself, it is the protagonist in the first person.
Where is it heading?
Possibly from evening to morning.
What is the form of my piece?
Akin to Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The narrative will need to shift from first person to third. During the act of remembering it will be in first person, outside of that memory it will be in third, referring to the past self almost as someone else (your mirror self?)
It could be could to have aspects of magical realism, they could be incorporated into the memories. The way everything is blending, isn’t that already the magical realistic?
Where will it begin?
Ultimately he’s in bed trying to fall asleep. But will the story begin there, or will it begin at the wheel of his car?