Monday, June 20, 2011

How Do You Start?

The starting line at Delphi, Greece

How do your short stories start? Do you begin with a character or a setting? Or do news articles spark ideas?

Sometimes a name pops into my head and a character appears to match it, fully formed, and I know I have a story. Sometimes I write from a prompt and have to wrap my head around some disparate objects and include them into some sort of cohesive whole. Sometimes I start off a whiz-bang idea and it fizzles on the second page. Never does go anywhere. Those stories are patiently sitting in a file, waiting for me to be smart enough to figure out how to finish them.

Do people you know inspire you? If so, do you include them, thinly or thickly disguised? And, if you do that, do they ever recognize themselves? I think it might be okay. It seems folks love to be characters in mystery stories. Those items--the opportunity to have yourself in a writer's next book--go for a lot of money at charity auctions, provided the author is well known to the audience. The bidders don't mind being the killer or the victim, either.

Once you have the idea, what do you do with it? I pull out folders that tell me about short story structure if I'm stuck. But if the story flows from beginning to end, almost without my intervention (except for my fingers on the keyboard), I let it. Funny thing, I don't need to clean those stories up much. I think my subconscious is a better story writer than my conscious.

One thing I do that seems like a good idea, is save ideas in a file folder. These are for times when I'm stuck for an idea. But I never look at them since I always get new ideas. If I do happen to go through them, cleaning out a drawer, I see that I've used some, so they lodged somewhere in my mind, just by the act of printing them out or clipping them and putting them into a folder.

Minds play funny tricks. I wonder if writers' minds play funnier ones than non-writers'.

Photo: The starting line at the stadium used for the Pythian Games at Delphi, Greece
This starting line has a design representative of that of many ancient Greek stadiums: stones with two lines in which the athletes nudged their toes, and round holes in which posts could be erected to support the start signaling mechanism.
The stone steps for sitting the public behind were erected under the Romans.
Photo shot by myself
Copyright © 2004 David Monniaux

Brain diagram public domain

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