The last several weeks we’ve been looking at writing from the stand point of taking an already established story line from one format into a narrative. This week I’m starting a new series. Now, I’m looking at how to come up with a story in the first place. It’s not as if you can just hook your thumb into the collective conscience and be taken to the destination marked “stories for sale here.” If it were, then everyone could do it, and writing would never have the fun and mystique of discovering just what exactly IS over that next big hill.
So, how do you come up with an idea? Do you contemplate your navel for days at a time? Wander around out in nature, or the big city, or through the family gatherings hoping and praying something will hop right out and scream “Write me, fool!”? If that’s worked for you, go get ’em tiger! But, don’t come crying when that spark fades over time as your memory of the event the idea sparked from fades. Sooner or later, that will happen.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not THE expert when it comes to coaxing stories out of the woods of your imagination, you are. I just have some tips and tricks that might help coax it out where you can see enough to decide if it’s worth pursuing or not. In this I do have a bit of experience. (If you haven’t tried to run a role-play game with 5 characters that really should NOT have been anywhere close to each other, keep the rowdy players interested instead of bickering, and so far out of scriptable material you almost don’t remember what it feels like to run a premade session, my qualifications wouldn’t make sense.) I managed to run several games that met either every day or every other day with power players and rule’s lawyers in every session. I had to stay creative, keep the story fresh, and keep things moving while accommodating the group. For gamers, this is something similar to what writers do in November when we sign up for NaNoWriMo – lots of progress and very little time to prepare.
So, how does this work? In a way, I wasn’t too far off about contemplating your navel. A setting where you are relaxed, and fairly free of distractions helps wonders in coaxing your muse out of the hidden shadows. Even if you have a story that is practically screaming to be written, having the muse on your side really helps.
Once you’ve relaxed, and let your mind wander around in your creative territory, you may feel a pull or even hear some whispers from deeper within. More than likely, this is your muse trying to get through. For all that the muse is a fickle creature, it really does like talking to you, but most of us are too busy to hear what it has to say. So, now that you’ve got a hint of where it wants to take you, follow it. Forgive me for pilfering from one of my childhood classics, but you are about to dive down the rabbit hole, and have the adventure of your life.
Your muse may or may not ever grow loud enough to give you the entire tale, or it may not be strong enough to lead you through all the twists and turns in your plot. For those who enjoy mapping out the story for themselves, this is just fine. If you remember to keep part of your mind tuned in and relaxed, your muse will show you where the story needs to go.
For the rest of us, this may be a bit more problematic. But, that’s next week’s post – Working With your muse, once you’ve figured out how to hear it.
In the mean time, happy writing!