Non-writers might ask: Where do people get those crazy ideas for fiction? Some writers might try to answer that question, but the truth is that they don’t have a clue.
Perhaps, you already have a story or a basic plot and you are thinking of turning from reader to writer. For me writing comes in little lightening bolts. I must subject myself to the world. For instance, the story ‘Man in a Box’ came to me when I saw a young tramp on the street. Of course, it’s not unusual to see an old and withered hobo, but it is a little disconcerting to see a young man give up on life. The sight of this 20-something beggar was the shock (lightening bolt) that inspired the story.
Fortunately for me, it doesn’t take much to inspire a story. One day I was in the grocery story, scanning the meats, and I spotted a tidy row of plastic wrapped packages that contained chicken hearts. I swear. I don’t know why chicken hearts upset me more that a package of cow’s rumps, but it did. What followed was a story about a slow-minded girl, working in a poultry factory. (Don’t bother looking for it on this blog; I’ve subbed it out. As soon as it gets rejected, I’ll let you take a peek. Whahahah!)
Other writers work in different ways. There is a famous writer with the initials S.K., who began amusing us with nightmares from his childhood. Then he awed us with the horrors of high school. Now, he brings forth haunted hotels. One day, I expect to read a scary story by SK about nursing homes.
I don’t know if I can write about my childhood. I still find it difficult to think of anything amusing about those years. But…maybe, someday.
Anyway, the point is: Whether you are digging up the past, musing the present or racing to the future, you must entertain the reader. First, get your idea.
Then answer the 5 W’s.
- Who — develop your characters (good guys and bad guys)
- What — what are they doing, and why do I give a shit?
- Where – background (I just hate a story with talking heads, don’t you?)
- When — time is important (perhaps you only hint at the time—but I think it’s essential and should be done early in the piece.)
- Why — a story is not a story, unless there is a motive. What do the characters want?
What’s my method of writing? When I first set pen to paper, I go crazy. Mad, silly, wild. I write furiously, but sometimes not fast enough for all my thoughts to make it to the yellow legal pad—and yes, it does have to be a yellow legal pad; electronic gizmos interfere with my muse. When I’m finished, there are notes in the borders. Page five gets inserted into the middle. Memos are written on the back. I get ideas in the shower and water spots appear on the last page.
When, finally, my seizure is over, I must do the rewrite. Next time, I’ll talk about organizing your delirium into something that regular people can decipher.