This week’s guest poster is the lovely Tavera Del Toro, author of Revenge Chair. Here Tavera discusses the creative process. Enjoy!
When I tell people I write novels, they often ask me where in the world do I get my ideas, which after a few general answers, I usually just say, “I don’t know, it just flashes into my head”. To be honest, that’s a half-truth.
Like any art or endeavor, one can’t just perch down at your desk and inform your brain, “Okay, brain tell me a story!”
One can try, but that usually results in hours of wall staring, paper fidgeting, hair scratching, which inevitably reminds you that you need a haircut and that different shampoo you’re using is leaving your hair limper than normal.
This results in you peering into a mirror and checking out your hair and the slow oncoming gray army of hairs capturing the crown of your head.
Then you recall, the story.
Many experiences have taught me, I cannot compose on demand, I have the literal talents of one thousand chimps scribing at the same time and coming up with a similar mountain of chaotic writing when I’m under stress.
Working under those conditions, my work lacks any feeling of fluidity, reminding me of my senior English paper on the existence of Sasquatch. To say I couldn’t create a more mainstream topic either speaks to my inability to select a quick decision or my lack of a grasp on reality.
Yeah, I was a peculiar kid.
A few years ago when I finally became motivated to write my first novel, I hunkered down as I am apt to do and grabbed a piece of paper and pen and began jotting down all sorts of ideas.
Considering my genre is horror, ideas about flying wizards with facial scars or romantic teenagers doomed to inter- monster romances came flying out onto the list, but they seemed a bit out of my area of expertise (my parents neglected to take me to wizard school, plus I’ve only dated one witch).
Therefore, I sat there for a few hours becoming ambivalent and uncertain about even trying to come up with a chilling tale that wasn’t some remake of the formulaic format: ghosts, eerie house, the residents fighting the evil forces within, or worse creatures living in the attic, or the basement of the said home.
Needing some form of structure, I reclined back in my oak chair and looked up into the ceiling with that sly and silly smile, the one I reserve for preparing to tell a dreadful joke. The one that universally leads to groans and head wagging.
Hoping that the results work better, I sat there and began to ponder and ask myself, “what scares me”?
Beyond tax bills, and my mother hinting to me about dying alone without children and a spouse and people sneezing on me as I do my grocery shopping, I collide with a wall. In that moment I grasp an idea, the “What would happen if?” Game. I’ll use a real-life example right here.
I would think of a mundane scenario, like picturing myself strolling down the street, perhaps the park and a nice peaceful day all around myself.
Then I would let my mind roam wild, letting the first element that pops up flow with the story, say a frisbee comes and whacks me on the head. Therefore, I visualize myself plunked in the head with the flying disc, and let the story continue as I visualize myself fall to the ground. Now what?
Closing my eyes, there I am lying on the ground, as the thrower comes over and peers at me on the sidewalk. Instinctively, I try to view him, or her face and try to feel what they’re thinking.
Instinctively, I know this is not an agreeable person, (obviously they knocked me out), so they have a sinister smile, as others run to help, they stand by watching me, studying me as others help me up.
The villain (yes, they’re my villain) slowly walks off and heads to a black vehicle. During this incident, the villain drives off, and my mind wonders, what is happening?
Time to step back and dwell in the mind of my villain, therefore I become the villain, running away from the scene, laughing at it all. Furthermore, I seal my eyes and try to let the character act in its own way.
The villain laughs, and picks up their phone and erases one chore on their checklist, and looks over the rest of the list. This evil person nods and thinks back to an incident that happened years ago, that led them to this point.
Peering through their mind, of a day ten years before, at a movie theater when the evildoer was waiting to watch a film. There I am, ten years younger with my friends, sitting down at the same theater, in front of our villain.
The villain roars into a fury as we create a collection of noises and continue to as the film begins, causing them to grow irate and move seats.
The villain sits next to a large woman, who begins to cough and our scoundrel receives a heap full of snot as the woman sneezes on the villain. Our villain (a hypochondriac) becomes ill and runs from their chair to the restroom.
Anger and rage flow through the villain, they have a job interview in two days, their dream job and now they might become ill. The villain blames my friends and me, our atrocious manners caused all of this, he must find out who we are; if anything goes wrong, we will be accountable.
The beast sits there watching us more than the film, taking notes on our hair, body types, and waits for the film to finish. The villain rises up and follows us to our car, taking down the license and make of the car as we drive off, and runs to his car and follows as my friends are taken home, one at a time, the cretin copying everyone’s addresses.
Two days later, the villain wakes up, their throat throbbing and feverish; they develop the flu and unable to attend the interview reschedules, but loses the job to another applicant.
The villain goes insane with rage: we have ruined his life, his existence, we must pay for this, we shall pay for this all, they decide right there and makes a plan, a sworn oath, in ten years to track us all down and begin a series of minuscule tortures and meddling into our lives, and leading us all to a demented death or insanity.
Ten years is plenty of time to have a stable career, have families and settle into life, then our creep will come and rip our life and happiness from us, bit by bit, creating mad and insidious plans.
Ten years later our monster, true to his word begins his attack.
This usually all occurs in a rush of minutes to hours, I now have the skeleton of my story, which I write down and study, and over time I develop the story, create characters, create an outline, everyone’s list of torments and outline who, when and what results from each event.
Selecting myself as the last survivor, I, therefore, begin step by step, detailing the story, how I discover the truth to the story, how I can fight the villain, and our conflict and finale.
I usually take a week, to look at the outline, find weak spots in my story, and redo it, from top to bottom. The ending usually develops a day or two afterwards, while rereading the outline.
This is all quite organic, and fluid, I can’t explain it, I let my innate imagination run with it, and write it all down. Then I pick and weed the story, and produce it better, more foolproof, avoiding plot holes and silliness. At this point, my outline is several pages and is redone numerous times until I’m content.
The actual writing process comes a day or two later, with my outline at hand, as my guide, my map as I turn out page after page, staying close to the outline, other times carrying wildly outside of it and just churning out the story.
I proceed with a natural flow to it, letting it take over, and relaxing, the key to it, just allowing the silly mind to take over and finish the job. Eventually, I finish and steer away from my finished document, and run away from it and forget it, avoid it for some time.
A week, perhaps weeks later, I return, and shift into a logical, and factual being and edit my tale. There are less time and chances to let my imagination and creativity roam free, at this point, and I change the mindset and become the editor.
It’s difficult to teach this format, I have found it works for me, through trial and error; it’s a fluid and experimental method, I don’t know if it works for anyone else.
Perhaps, my imagination is replete with instant stories or ideas, I don’t know, I hope with practice and just a goofy enough sense of wonder, others will be able and better using my process than myself, and at least causes the would-be writer to find their own method with trial and error.
About Tavera Del Toro
Tavera is a self-published author of two books, Revenge Chair, and Horror in the Heart, both a series of fictional short horror/ supernatural stories.
Tavera lives in the Arizona southwest, enjoying the great sunsets, and warm winter nights while typing late into the nights.
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Thanks to Tavera for sharing the creative process with us. Please make sure to check out all the links and if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.
I should be back on Friday with a regular post. Thanks again for your patience during my ‘plague month’.
I am still recovering but there are only so many bad movies I can watch before I lose my mind. So I am trying to get back to my blogging schedule.