Today I am thrilled to begin pulling back the curtain on the making of our launch StoryApp: In the Footsteps of Giants.

The nexus of the project, and the most important element of all, is the story. So this is where we began. And as we close out the first month of a new year, I am happy to say that we're closing in on a working manuscript.

But the road traveled thus far is not been straight. Is it ever?

You never know what’s going to happen when you give yourself over to the creative process, no matter the medium of expression. You conceive of an idea. You pitch it to an agent or editor, who takes it to a publisher or producer; or you take it directly to the crowd. And they say, “Sure! Let’s make that.” At which point you do a happy dance. Maybe celebrate with your friends.

But then the real work begins…

“What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”
Thomas Edison

You roll up your sleeves and dive in only to find, inevitably, that the road you intended to travel has many intersecting pathways, many of which you did not foresee. And some of these promise a more interesting journey.

What do you do? Well, as in life when facing various options that will lead to different futures, no two of us will react alike. Here are a few likely scenarios:

  • Some will fear these potential golden highways as siren calls, as possible dead ends. They will balk and continue to pursue the proposed path despite the potholes that need dodging and brambles that need bushwhacking.

  • Others will right away shout, “Cool, let’s see where this road leads,” even at the risk of it taking them nowhere.

  • Many will test this fork here, back out and try that one there, before making a commitment.

  • And still others will tie themselves up in knots before picking one route and forging ahead into the unknown, if they manage to pick one at all.

In my experience, if you hit a roadblock in your writing process, it’s helpful to ask your characters. Then let them lead. They usually know where they want to go; how they want to get there; and if they are the best narrator for the job. And should a character show up who demands to be heard, it’s usually a good idea to listen. This may be an additional voice that will make your story better. Or, it may be the better voice for your story.

This is precisely what has happened to me with Beware Madame la Guillotine. It was just another boring history until Charlotte Corday found her way into my imagination. And it has happened again with In the Footsteps of Giants.

It turns out that even in the year 2016, Michelangelo is as peevish and egotistical as he was in his lifetime (1475-1564). Because no sooner had Mary Hoffman begun drafting the story with Gabriele, a fictionalized model for The David that she conceived as her main character, when Michelangelo asserted himself, insisting that he could do a much better job.

Gabriele was all too happy to bow down to his master and exit center stage. It was Michelangelo’s story after all. But Mary was not at first convinced. She tried to explain to Michelangelo that we had an audience of Kickstarter backers, and others, expecting to hear from the handsome doppelganger. She worried that as her publisher/producer, I would show Michelangelo the hand as a result of our Kickstarter promise.

But I did not. I told Mary to go for it. And the team agreed, because we firmly believe that what our audience wants, first and foremost, is a great tale, no matter who the narrator may be. Right?

And as I wrote last week, interest in Michelangelo appears never to wane. So we can’t lose!

I’m excited to say that In the Footsteps of Giants has been transformed by Michelangelo’s voice. In is a much richer, more layered retelling of the man, his art, and the era in which he lived. I look forward to sharing it with you in the weeks to come.

So when you next feel doubt about the direction your creative process is taking, don’t fret. Just listen. Crack open a blank page in your sketchbook or writing journal and ask your characters themselves: Are we telling this story correctly? Are you the best narrator for the job? Is there something or someone that I’m missing?

Trust me. Your characters will tell you. Unlike people, they have no ego investment. And they are always honest.

That’s just my advice. Now what’s yours?
What do you do when the creative process teases you with twists and turns? Please leave your thought in the comments.


More soon!