Tuesday, March 26, 2013

STORY – In Three Parts – Part Three: How Story Manifests

In the shadow of a calling I found myself . . .

                                        Worrying about my dog.         

Musical Moment ~ “Smile” Lily Allen

So far in this series, we’ve talked about Intuition and The Accident, which prompted me to write the series and this final installment - Story.

As a writer, one of the things that always puzzles me is when people ask, “Where do you get your story ideas?”

I have always thought that a strange question, because my mind - my life - is filled with story.  But my very smart husband (aka The Husband) told me something that I never, ever knew.

While I think, live and breathe in story, not everyone does.

How can that be, I asked him. At first The Husband said I was just weird. Ha-ha. But then he explained it was because I was creatively inclined and my creative outlet was words, that is the way my brain works. For others, like painters, they may think in colors and concepts, musicians might think in octaves and notes, and analytical people (like The Husband) may think in terms of facts and numbers. 

Huh, this news to me.

Anyway, since this post is about story, I will tell you about me and my relationship with it.

Story has always lived closely with me. It has helped me when I’ve been sad, mad, hurt or bored.  So much so, that I have a book and a file called “Story Ideas” to keep track of all the interesting stories that have visited me.  I *see* stories like movies trailers in my head.  I dream in story form.  It is as natural to me as breathing.  It is my best form of entertainment and I consider it a true gift.

To show you how I answer the question, “Where do you get your story ideas?” I will use The Accident to show how I can come up with many different story angles from a single incident.
If you read back on the blog post of The Accident, you will see that the woman involved was in her twenties, alone in the car, unconscious and I and the people around me thought she might have died because we couldn’t get to her at first, she wasn’t moving, didn’t look as if she were breathing and her neck was in an unfortunate angle.  There was another car involved with a man and a woman, but they were unhurt and their van sustained very minimal damage.  There were also a group of people who stopped to help.  These are the thoughts and questions, after the fact, that came into my head and which I would follow to create a story or develop a character:

Did she have a heart attack?

Maybe she had a brain aneurysm. 

Did a text distract her? 

Suppose she shot up with heroin before she got into the car and her body shut down?

Perhaps she received a call that someone she loves was hurt.

Or maybe she just found out her child died. 

What about the driver in the other car? Was he arguing with his wife? 

Was it road rage because the woman in the other car was driving too close and it set off a trigger in him?

Was he trying to pull off the side of the road, but going too slow because his wife just asked him for a divorce?

Or did he just find out his father was leaving his mother of 40 years because he was gay and finally decided to live his authentic life?

Why did that strange man have a small fire extinguisher in his car and why was he wearing pink high heels (okay, the last part is not true, but it could have been)?

How did the guy who disabled the car horn while the car was in flames know what to look for?  Could he be a driver for the mob and knew exactly where to look because he’s placed many a bomb under a hood and his “front” is a car dealership owner?

What if the woman who was tapping on the window trying to see if the woman in the car was all right realized she was staring into the face of her identical twin . . . and she was brought up as an only child?

See?  A moment with its own inherent complexities and it gave me so many avenues of story and not just one story, but many different potential stories with different characters and different possible locations to follow.  The hard part is choosing one story or even combining a few together, sticking with it and finding out what happens next.   This is where your instincts as a writer is so important. You go where the story pulls you and where the avenues are interesting.

Basically, story is all linked to your curiosity.  Asking your self “What if . . .” or “What about . . .”

Story allows the writer to go as far as they can into a topic or a personality type that may be as foreign as the planet Pluto.  (Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not considered a planet any more, but it’s been one for so long that I’m personally keeping its status.) Now just imagine the story you can write about Pluto.  Suppose there are uber-intelligent beings living on Pluto who through Uber-Tronic technology learn they’ve been down-graded from Planet status and feel the need to come to earth and tell us about their planet, why they are a true Planet and how they have the cleanest air and water in the entire solar system. Suppose they are peaceful being, can shapeshift into human form, but can only speak the language of the animals in the amazon or better yet Chimps who use symbols to “talk” to humans?  What if in these “talks” we humans learn that the Earth is the planet that’s not a Planet?  What then?

Story is everywhere at anytime and in any place. You just have to be curious enough to ask questions and imagine.  So instead of asking others, “Where do you get your story ideas?” go out and do your own story making.  It may seem hard at first, but like any muscle, the more you use and exercise it, the stronger it gets.

Are you someone who finds stories easy or hard to find?  How does that impact you as a writer or a as a person who thinks in story?

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