Saturday, October 12, 2013

How to write a story - my way...

I get asked these two question all the time.
'Where do you get the ideas?'
'How do you start these stories?'
Allow me to explain how the initial creative process works for me....

Where do I get the ideas?

Basically, everywhere and anywhere, but there are two main ways I get ideas for stories.

1. Seeing something.

  • Sometimes, I will see something, that sparks an idea in my mind. The most random inspiration I had was from seeing a greasy hand mark on a bus window, from where someone had clearly tried to bang on the bus window to stop it from leaving without them... or at least that is what I imagined. From this, my flash fiction (one day to be a full story) Good Girls Don't Talk to Satyrs, was formed. That germ of a concept was formed well over eleven years ago, when I was catching a bus to work, and happened to sit at seat next to which the window had a greasy hand print on. When I looked at that hand print I remember imagining some poor sweaty soul racing after the bus, as it takes off, leaving him behind... it often happens, I'm sure you've seen it yourself.

  • I have long said that I'm frequently manspired, so I don't think I need to re-hash how inspiring I find watching male characters on TV interact with others. Contrary to popular belief, I don't simply focus on the males because I like to perv (which may have a small ounce of truth to it - but no more)... I believe I focus more on the male side because as a woman, I'm more familiar with the ways in which a woman would typically react in a certain situation, whereas the men take more research... So watching how men react and interact with others either in real life or on screen is very helpful and inspiring as a writer.

  • Or I just open a mythical creatures book and choose a creature at random and then think of all the different kinds of ways I could incorporate them into a book.

2. Feelings and memories.

This is kind of hard to describe, but I often go to a place and get a "feeling" about it.  I travel a lot, and sometimes when I'm passing through a worn, empty, dry  outback Australian town I get a sad feeling about the place, and I think about all the things that may have been there, eg: it might have been a vibrant growing community once, but now is run-down; home only to a few die-hards who have no where else to go, or don't want to leave. Remembering how places and situations felt emotionally, is powerful fodder for a book.

Another example of this was when I was down in Margaret River. This area is an increasingly trendy place to be, with surf competitions, wineries, breweries, vineyards, forests.... It really is quite a lovely place to visit. Yet allow me to recall a particular scene that has long fascinated my writing mind. My family and I were having an uber expensive coffee at a trendy café. This café appeared to be run solely by teenagers who seemed to care more for conversing with each other than the coffees they were supposed to be brewing... Anyway, as we sat there drinking our luke-warm coffee, a woman  walked in. She was dressed in black and white striped tights with black shiny boots, a green tunic with a black belt cinched around her waist and shocking orange dyed hair. As I attempted to discretely observe her, I heard my husband mutter; "If we do not leave this café now, I'm going to grab that leprechaun and find out where she keeps her gold...."
Obviously he was joking, but I nearly spilt my coffee laughing. She did indeed look like a leprechaun - and it shows just how much living with paranormal writer has affected my husband! However, the situation got me thinking about how ridiculous the 'trendiness' was getting in the area. I looked at the leprechaun lady, she no doubt thought she looked fab-oh!  But really she looked quite bizarre.  The feeling and thoughts that this strange scene evoked however were very inspiring. The dichotomy between reality and individual perception is fascinating.  It then becomes something of muse, as I am able to think about where I could place that kind of plurality in a book.
So, how do I start the story?

I am perhaps unusual in that I find it incredibly easy to start stories, I actually have 9 stories that are on hold at the moment, and I could start countless more if I let myself... It's choosing which one to finish that is the problem.
I start with imagining my main character (male or female)
Then I think about what would be one of the worst things that could happen to them. Then I consider what would have happened to them to find themselves in that situation.

For example;
I have just opened my 'Mythical Creatures Bible' by Brenda Rosen to the page entitled Vila.
A Vila is a nature spirit / fairy hailing from Eastern Europe. They are very beautiful, live in the forest, great healers, but incredibly vengeful against humans who harm them.
It then takes me all of two seconds to create a heroine.

Name: Beata (nice Polish name)
Worst thing that could happen: She's in a terrible accident, has a horrible facial injury and is no longer beautiful and due to the nature of her accident is unable to heal herself and is scarred for life. Who would ever love a Vila so disfigured? This might call for a little vengeance and salvation from guess who? Your sexy hero of course! (who also has a few demons of his own)!

From this idea, I can then write the first paragraph.

Her eyes were heavy as she struggled to focus, but the world appeared white and gauzy. Her eyelashes brushed against material pressed close against her face, obscuring the world from sight. Unfamiliar voices sounded around her, they seemed distant and muffled.
What the hell?
Beata's throat tightened, panic made her heart lurch.
Where am I?
Her hands flew to her face, trying to remove the cloth that blinded her, but found her hands swiftly captured by others.
'Miss Myszka, please stop.'
The sound of her own name made her freeze.
'Where am I?' she asked.
There was a long hesitation, 'You're in hospital, there has been an accident.'

And that, is how I start a story!
Have a great weekend!


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