Creating Inner Constellations

What are your inner constellations

What are your inner constellations

According to Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Stanley Kunitz, your inner constellations are made up of images that represent your own personal motivations, the ideas that appear time and again in your own writing.

Look over your finished stories or works-in-progress. If you're just starting out as a writer, look over your favorite novels by other writers. Can you identify any common themes, words, or ideas?

What are your beliefs about humanity? Love? Faith?

What are your guiding stars?

Rebecca McClanahan, the author of Word Painting, explains that "repeated patterns of any kind in our work—words, phrases, objects, colors, places, events, people, sounds—are there for a reason."

The Snapshot Method

In his masterclass, author Neil Gaiman explains, “All fiction has to be as honest as you can make it... because that’s what people respond to.…” In order to find our inner constellations we have to move away from our comfort zones and admit to truths we may not want to acknowledge.

There is an exercise in the book Stein on Writing that, for my money, is the best advice I’ve ever read on building your inner constellation.

Sol Stein calls it the secret snapshot technique, I call it instant vulnerability.

Think of a snapshot of something so private [you] wouldn’t carry it in [your] wallet...wouldn’t want [your] neighbor or closest friend to see. Not even a family member. Especially not a family member
— Sol Stein, Stein on Writing

The secret doesn’t have to be sexual or scandalous. It should be your innermost secret, perhaps the thing you regret most or that you’re afraid of, or that you hate. When was the last time you were humiliated? Write it down and do not lie.

Narrative & Description

Once you have your inner constellation, it’s time to start crafting your narrative.

Narrative & OUtline

What is the best way to outline your story. Are you a plotter or a plodder? Either way, there a few questions you need to answer before you start writing.


Narrative & Your Senses

Creating a compelling narrative means translating words on the page into tangible sensations. How do you build a picture in your reader’s imagination?


Narrative & RHETORIC

How do you create the perfect turn of phrase like Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde? My guess is rhetoric.