The Life of a Story

The Life of a Story 0

Stories are funny things – they come at you at the most inopportune times, often giving you only a brief glimpse of what it could be, like the profile of a wrapped present not boxed, hinting at the goodness (or often strangeness) within.

I find many of my stories in the shower (Stephen King had one of his writer-characters recently describe it as womb-like, something I read in the past day or so), or as I’m drifting off to sleep, or occasionally after I have fallen asleep – but almost never when I first wake up. Sometimes I’ve discovered a seed of a story at the grocery store, or while driving (longer distances help this), and every once in a while I’ve actually forced myself to come up with something and actually produced something workable.

Most of the time, these story-seeds are just that – potential stories, but not stories themselves. To become a full fledged story, they need care – time in the form of contemplation, or careful thoughts and slow, simmering work.

And sometimes you need to work it over again and again.

I’ve filled many entries in Scrivener with ideas, usually each idea to it’s own entry; sometimes I’ll start a new page and fill it full of different ideas. These are all snippets, seeds, and while the writing captures the idea, often the feeling that accompanied the idea originally will fade. That’s ok, though – when you’re ready, that feeling (or perhaps even a stronger one) will come back, usually in my idea-incubators (shower, bed, etc.).

I’ve had this over the past year with a few different novel ideas, where each week or two another idea would demand my attention, giving me more details, additional characters, refinements on plot, all of which I did my best to write down. And I’d think this is what I’ll work on next. But I didn’t, because while the ideas were good, they still didn’t feel right – or at least right now.

I have settled on my first novel, my first WIP, and it’s almost earned the IP part. It’s detailed, I’m fleshing out the secondary characters, and new details emerge daily. But then, over the previous weekend, my wife and I went out to lunch – a spur of the moment thing – with a friend. We were talking stories, and how some people take your ideas too seriously, as if because you write about something horrific, you must think horrific thoughts (sometimes that’s true) and have horrific urges (not true at all, except when near idiot drivers). So I mention an idea of a story I’ve had for a couple of years – a short story, very limited in location and situation – and it’s rather gruesome. I mentioned it as my example of “I have this horrible idea, but I’d never think to do this.” Of course, throughout the meal, both my friend and his wife would occasionally come back to the story and suggest a few details of their own.

So, this story has a few seeds going for it, and then today, while showering, so many more details poured out. Had I been sitting in front of my computer, I could have written it out, fully – but I was in the shower (and none of my writing devices are water proof that I know of). So, instead, I finished the shower and the rest of my grooming regime (I’ll leave that to your imagination) then laid on my bed, pulled up the idea on my iPad, and entered an additional 750 words of thoughts – a rough outline, in paragraph form, with details that drive the story and give it the richness it will need. This is one of those things that will need to come out, very soon, but still not…quite…yet.

But it’s close. Not labor pains, no breaking of water, but you know when it’s close.

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