Stones, Pebbles, Sand

The old Stones, Pebbles, Sand story -- where a jar is filled first with large stones, then smaller pebbles, then sand -- can definitely be applied to writing the "Wilfair" books, I'm finding.

It's a parable about what's important in life. But it here's how it works for "Wilfair": The large rocks are the characters, plot points, themes, and main gears of the story. The pebbles are smaller events that happen and characters who might appear briefly. And the sand? That's the truly eensy, but still critical, stuff: phrases the characters use, Fair's "likes," a brief reference back to a brief reference.

Here's an example of a grain of sand in the stories: The word "ditto." Gomery uses it in "Redwoodian" and is slightly embarrassed by it. So, of course, it has to show up again.

Call it Chekov's Ditto. :)

It's on a list -- a long, long list -- that sits in front of me. I want to make sure it is in "Stay Awhile," somewhere, and that I haven't forgotten it. And that's where I am now: On one long, last grain-of-sand check. The big rocks are in place, and the pebbles, too. Now I'm basically standing over the jar, rubbing my thumb and index fingertip together, dropping in the last fine grains.

Making it all the more challenging, and fun for me, is combining new sand with old. As the stories continue, there have to be new phrases, new ideas, and new words, too. Meaning I'm always lifting the jar and examining it, making sure the silver sand is mixing well with the beige and gold grains. And in the right amounts.

I'm sure I'm not the first writer to use the Stones, Pebbles, Sand approach. And, actually, it probably can be applied to most things in life. Like my dinner last night: the enchilada was the Stones, the sour cream the Pebbles, and a dash of hot sauce the Sand.

Update: I found a word I scrawled on the list that looks like "mated." Every time I see it I laugh. No idea what it is. It may not shock you to learn there is no mating in this next book. Are there a number of suggestive, flirty moments? You know there are. But "mated"? Hmm.


Erika said...

I'd never heard that story but I really like it. It make sense to me when it comes to books and life in general. We have things that are our big stones, little pebbles, and the day to day grains of sand. I'm going to go be philosophical with a two year old. I wonder what he'll think about this... He's very wise ;)

Being able to comment as me is making me irrationally happy.

Chiara said...

I always like reading about your approach and this is an interesting one. Never really thought about writing in this way. I should maybe tell my students about it when they got problems writing essays. Might help some of them getting over that first hurdle of starting. Thanks!

And I'll probably be applying "stones, pebbles and sand" to all kinds of things in life now!

Wilfair Book said...

Erika: I'm so happy you are commenting as you! This eases my mind. I don't like the site acting funky with people.

And being philosophical with a 2yo is the best. I find that it often works! Especially when they're wise ones.

Chiara: Thank you. I do love to talk about writing here and how I approach things, and I love hearing how other people do, too. It's a gas to talk about the sillier, sassier things too (cough forearms cough) but I gotta throw in a post like this now and then.

Oh, and I found a better perspective on the stones, pebbles, sand idea:

Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Tips