1) Where do your story ideas come from?

Mar 27, 2014

Everywhere and anywhere. A quotation from the Bible, a news report that makes me wonder “What if – 7 centuries back;” or perhaps a line or two of poetry – the beginning of a story – will pop into my head and I’ll think, “Oh! Where did you come from? What are you trying to tell me?” Kernels of stories find me. I welcome them and wait. Sometimes lines of poetry – whole stanzas – will come, and I know something is trying to break through. There’s a story to be told and I’m the medium. I write the lines down as they come; I may, and usually do, shape them, pare them, move them around later. There is a great deal of subsequent work to be done but, initially, I just write what comes.

If it’s simply an idea that’s come, I wait. I go about my day. Eventually, I will feel as if there is a little bird on my shoulder; whispering into my ear. A character’s name. A need. A conflict. A resolution. I wait. Is there a point to this?

When I teach creative writing, I teach my students how to become receptive so the ideas come, then to pull them out of their creative depths and shape them enough to ask the question, “What’s the point, or the spine, or the raison d’etre of the story?” In my own case I feel a “click” in my solar plexus that tells me “Ah. That’s it. I have a story.” It’s not just characters or plot, althought of course every story needs those. And it’s not necessarily some spiritual or moral or important message, although that may be implicit. It’s that one thing that makes me smile and say, “Yes, this has meaning. This story must be told.”

Then the real work begins. The story, verse narrative, book may take months, even years to bring to fruition. But once I have that “click” in my solar plexus, I know it is worth it. I know it must be done. It was given to me and now I must do the work to bring it out into the world.

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