Writing with Pythia

image from ArtBreeder

filed under writing on 27 Feb 2017
tagged narrative, novel, writing, and theory

So, finding myself between projects, I decided to write a novel. Well, another one, but let’s not talk about that, hahaha.

Usually I sketch out my plot, roughly, and then try to follow that map, more or less – because the surest way to get stuck and give up is to run into a wall of “what happens next” (trust me, I have encountered this wall many times). And there’s also “crap, what’s the conflict here?” and “I don’t even know these people well enough to do this” walls to get through.

So I’ll take any help I can get on those fronts.

This thing I’m working on now doesn’t have much in the way of a roadmap, though, mostly because I don’t know the characters well enough yet to figure it out, and because I don’t (which is rare) have a “end game” in mind yet.

So I’ve been using Pythia to handle the things I’d otherwise get stuck on, with the caveat that I’m going to have to discard or rewrite the first few chapters eventually once I find out the details and know the characters well enough to tell their story. Of course, you almost always have to do that anyway for the same reasons, so who cares?

So far it’s been working really well to handle the things I might otherwise be unable to decide (or able to use an excuse to go web browsing for two hours instead of continuing to work). For example, I arrived at a scene where the hero had to take a breather, and I figured it would be a good time to show that she plays music in a band, and to have a friend show up to talk. Does it happen inside or outside? In a bar or in an open air park or somewhere else entirely? Is the gig tomorrow or tonight?

Sure, I could just flip a coin, but having a running log where I can jot down notes and get instant random results is really handy. I don’t know if I’d want to tackle writing an entire novel in Pythia – though some of my logs approach that level of prose, for sure – just because I like my atom setup so much! But because Pythia outputs to markdown in several different patterns, it’s pretty trivial to get a novel skeleton out of it. Even more so if you follow a framework like 6 Days to Adventure or the more generic ones in the back of The Calypso Compendium.

Anyway, I’m totally avoiding working today by writing blog posts, so I’d best get back to it!