I don’t mean the above title in a literal sense. You don’t have to start creating a story at its beginning. In time, you’ll end up with a beginning (whether fiction or non-fiction, composition does require one), but when you first start out to put your story down on paper or a computer monitor or on the bedroom wall with an eye to its eventual form, the beginning is not always where you’ll find yourself.
However, that will be another blog’s topic.
No, by saying “start at the beginning” I’m referencing a birth, an inception to your creation. Many reading this blog are already accomplished writers (although you still might find the content interesting, so stick around), while others may not have taken the plunge. Heck, you might not even want to—yet you still could find the blog content interesting, so…yeah, that’s all I’m going to say about that.
In recognition of my recently-blogged, coincidentally-timed, not-New-Year’s-Resolution, I am determined to write more about, well, writing. I can’t help it. The written word was, is and always will be an amazing device. A force to be reckoned with, calling up wonder, distress, joy, sorrow, peace, terror…and right on through the emotion dictionary. (I believe there is such a thing, a tome put together for writers stuck for words. Imagine that.)
Besides writing about writing, I’m going to suggest certain exercises to those inclined to try them. No one needs to see a thing except you. My initiation into authorship many years ago utilized pencil, notebook paper and crayons. I think I showed my little “book” to my mother, but I might not have done so. I likely coveted it in secret, amazed that I’d managed thirty-six pages and illustrations all by my seven-year-old lonesome. It’s all too long ago to recall for certain. I do know I’d been prompted to the task by my love of horses and of drawing and, naturally, words and all the worlds to be found within them.
This little foray into reminiscence brings me to the point. (Finally! you cry out inside your head—or maybe even out loud, if you’re getting exasperated.) We, as writers, garner our ideas from so many places. Sometimes the smallest incident can prompt a tale in our heads. Perhaps we’ve walked down the street and a door on a house has opened, only to be slammed shut again. A cat looks both ways before crossing a street. A bright red balloon, obviously lost without its child’s hand, bobs in a tree’s naked branches. Someone scribbles a note in a restaurant and drops it in disgust on the table occupied nearby. We’re always observing, we writers, always wondering, always inventing, always studying people, places and things. Researching, too, although sometimes by accident, seeking out and finding those kernels that sprout into a whole scenario, perhaps the entire motivation for the next work. This is why we often seem distant and confused (she says and wants you to believe). There’s just too much going on in our conscious brain to be handled. It can hardly be contained. Except for the dreaded writer’s block, of course, but we’re not going to talk about that today, either.
I am designating Tuesdays for the write-brained-scribbler category in my blogs. This Tuesday, if anything I’ve been blathering on about sparks your interest, break out a notebook, rescue a wrinkled envelope from the recycling bin, crack open your laptop, whatever medium you use, and make a list of…things. Things you’ve seen, thought about, wanted to know, want to pretend you know, with the goal being that one of these will be the idea behind a short story. And I’m talking an extremely short story for starters. The word count for short stories is considered to be anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 words. They can be as few as 1,000 words, and I’ve read some incredible shorts, the most recent written by the twelve-year-old daughter of a friend, which topped out at approximately 550 words. I was, quite honestly, stunned.
Regardless of length, all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end, or an introduction, a build to the climax, and a resolution. These are fairly simple descriptors, but you get the picture. So, if you’re into it, and I daresay you might be if you’ve read this far, get that idea list in hand. Create a story in your head and get it written down using a 500 word limit. That’s about two double-spaced pages in your word processing program. In the course of those two pages, your character will go through a change, whether in perspective, or attitude, or simply course chosen. Sound good?
Next Tuesday we’ll get into ways to “cut the fat” to reach that limit, in case you’re having trouble. It’s not always easy. I’ll write a short story, too, and post it in next week’s blog. I’m not saying it’ll be great or earth-shattering, because it won’t be, but hey, it’ll be fun.
Tuesdays won’t only be something of this nature, although I would like to take this eventually to the plotting and writing of a novel. We’ll have to see. I’ll still do general craft of writing posts, the occasional interview or review. In the meantime, if you have questions between now and next week, pop them in the comments. See you then!