Story Inspiration Sunday

How do you start a story?

Tell Me Again

Book View Cafe will be doing a blog series on story starts. I figure the way I approach novels is of no use to anyone. I call myself a gestault writer: Generally the entire idea for a novel arrives in my head. The first few chapters are there in pretty good detail, I’ll know some of the middle, and I’ll see at least a couple of the pivotal end scenes. The characters main characters are already there — I’ll create minor ones along the way.

While I start writing the novel, I have to figure out how to get from point A to point Z, and all the points in between. Since I have the structure figured out, I’m frequently discovering the emotional journey of the characters along the way. (More than one writer has told me that’s backwards, with the implied I should be working from the emotional side first. But every writer’s process is different, yo. Respect the process.)

This doesn’t happen for every novel. For example, The Raven and the Dancing Tiger. This novel started from a short story and I had no idea where the ending was until I was further into it.

So this series of blog posts is really about short story idea generation. And for me, stories can come from anywhere. Like the post I did about the bees. I keep thinking about the beekeeper’s daughter. She lives in a world that’s very Blade Runner-esk. She’s starting to stir in my dreams. She hasn’t started talking to me yet, but that’s just a matter of time. I will write her story before the end of the year.

That’s a story inspired by character.

The post where I admit to just how much of a geek I am actually has already generated a short story. It’s currently out, looking for a home with a magazine.

That’s a story inspired by a game.

I have stories that start from a mis-read title of a book, from real life events like taking apart the mortar in my chimney, from a desire to explore the world of a novel just a bit more, from fairy tales, from everything.

How about you? Do you have a particular source that you go back to for inspiration? A particular key that unlocks all the stories you tell? Or are you all over the place like me, and even a few places I haven’t gone yet?




Story Inspiration Sunday — 3 Comments

  1. I just sort of follow each sentence of the story to see where it will go next. The one thing I have to be careful with is that I don’t try to think about how the scene will end, or how the story will end, because then I’ll write to meet that instead of seeing where the story will naturally go. I just had a short story I almost didn’t write because I kept going to “How’s it supposed to end?” I finally had to shove that voice aside so I could follow the path the story was taking me on, and it turned into a magnificent story.

    Ideas: I’m working on novel where the idea came from a marble, and I connected it to other things that I had experienced in my family background. The marble itself isn’t in the story. The short story I had trouble with was inspired by mashing an anthology theme and the fact that soldiers can be ordered to do something they don’t want to do. I’m using that same idea for another story, different anthology. Another story came from two candles that were at a 911 ceremony, and I’m mashing that one into another anthology theme, though I turned the theme in a different direction than everyone else will take.

  2. I start with a character in his/her normal situation. Then, quite soon, something happens that propels the character out of that ordinary situation and into a serious conflict. As the character acts to deal with the new situation, the conflict complexifies and becomes more acute. At the same time, an internal conflict arises out of the character’s backstory and that further complicates the character’s predicament.

    Anywhere from thirty thousand to forty thousand words in, it becomes clear to me what they story is about (thematically) and I begin to think about how to tie the inner and outer conflicts together to create a moment of crisis/choice out of which will come the climax and resolution. Or to put it another way, I start to see how the story represents the posing of a dramatic question; once I know what that question is, I can think about how to answer it.

  3. Gestalt (German word for form) suggests that the idea comes to you in whole. Oh, to be that lucky! I’ve only had that happen to me about five times in my life. Otherwise, I get scenes and images, often in a jumble.