Where do stories come from?

So many people wonder where writers get their stories.

Are they personal experiences? Are they old tales turned into new ones?

The truth is, writers make them up. That’s why they’re called writers, and why so many of their stories are called novels or fiction.

One of the greatest examples of a writer telling a story that he completely made up yet nailed so accurately and hit home with so many of his readers is Stephen King’s effort with Hearts in Atlantis. The second novella in the book takes place at a college and focuses on a group of friends who take to playing the card game “Hearts.” So many readers (your truly included) found King’s recounting of the addictive nature of the game so realistic that we could’ve sworn King must have loved playing Hearts too, and fallen into a world of serious Hearts.

Not so, said King. Essentially, the story was completely fabricated. Proof of a true legend at his craft.

The most important thing to learn when wondering where a story comes from is understanding that a story can come from anywhere. It can come from a photo, a painting, a dream, an idea. Maybe it comes from thin air, just pops up in your mind one day. What you as a writer have to do, is grow that story. Much like raising a plant from a seed, you have to feed that story idea. Add to it so it germinates, sprouts roots and expands into different avenues. The more you feed and water it, the more it takes on a life of its own, with you gently guiding the way.

And that’s the fun part. Personally, I have to remind myself throughout my writings, that there is no right or wrong path for a story. It’s not math. (And that’s why I’m doing it, because it’s the opposite of math.)

One way to come up with a story starter is using writing exercises, whether on the Internet or in a book. Maybe a one-sentence lead can get you going down the right path. But don’t cling to that crutch. Push it away. Stand on your own two writing feet. Make up a sentence all your own, and move on from there. Even if you don’t like where the story starts to lead you, just keep writing. Keep generating words. The more you write, the more you learn about your craft, the more you understand what you’re capable of. At some point, you’re going to realize you’ve been carried off in a writing frenzy — disappeared into that magical place that writer’s love. It will feel like you’ve been transported into that make-believe world that exists only in your mind, yet is so real you forgot you were writing.

And the more you keep doing it, the more the story ideas will flow. You’ll find your mind naturally generating ideas without you forcing it. The key is getting going. Don’t stop. Don’t think about it. Just write.

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Searching for the write words | scottjkaniewski

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