You Think You Have A Story To Tell: How To Start?
Pick up a pen, get some paper.
Open your computer and put your fingers to the keys.
Just start writing down your story. This is the way to start whether you are writing a memoir, short story, or novel. If there is no start, then there is no story being told.
But, hold it. Don’t I need to read books on structure? Learn to outline?
What about setting, point of view, themes, character arcs, plot outlines, conflicts, climax, denouement?
However, again, if there is no start, there is no story. Stories get stuffed up in the memory circuit, build, and stay there until they are either released or forgotten. You owe it to the generations after you to give your point of view on life. Inspire them to do better. Entertain them. Or, just for the importance of leaving your children, and theirs, something of yourself.
How many times have you read a story and thought to yourself, I could have written that? But, you didn’t. That’s the point.
If not now, WHEN?
Forget about publishing for the time being. Forget about fame, becoming a bestselling author, writing fulltime. Just sit down and write. Don’t worry about anything but letting the story tell itself.
I started telling stories at a very young age. In fact, my second-grade teacher said I was such a good fibber, I should become a writer. My family says I can’t go to the grocery store without coming home having stirred up or become part of a some suspenseful drama.
The first stories I wrote were memories. Just that. A segment of my life. And sometimes I juiced them up a bit to make a better story. Probably more than sometimes, but then, I lived a pretty unflappable life. Many of those narratives eventually turned into short stories that I published in literary journals.
What I wrote about;
The time I ignored my father’s warning about keeping away from the young stallion in the back field and nearly got kill. The story about my mother going out to kill a chicken for Sunday dinner. The day my Aunt Margaret hit my mother over the head with a dead chicken. How we practiced communion without going to church. The day we visited my grandmother and she gave my mother, not my mother’s sister, a family broach, and why. How the real story about my brother and the Monster At Waverly Lake came about. The event put a scare into our home town. How I tamed the monster living in my closet. I could go on. I have written over a hundred of these memories.
My stories developed.
I began reading short stories finding different ways to tell each story. Like Steven King states: You need to read and write a lot if you want to be a writer. In his book On Writing, he discusses why you need to read those stories that are good, and why it is just as important to read stories that aren’t so good. Both teach.
Anne Lamott’s book on writing entitled Bird by Bird, talks about writing and catching moments of your life.
Both of these books mentioned are well worth the time reading.
What are good short stories to read?
All of these, tell what happened, just like you might.
Faulkner’s Short Story: A Rose of Emily
Steven King’s: The Mist
Maya Angelou: Graduation
Amy Tan Two Kinds
Sandra Cisneros The House on Mango Street
Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried
Alice Walker Everyday Use
Margaret Atwood Happy Endings
Lydia Davis Blind Date
Louise Erdich The Red Convertible
I’ve given you ten reads. There are thousands. Turn off the tube and begin the discovery. Then see how you can mimic your story into one like you read.
Those who succeed learn from those who went before them. Then they found their own voice and stories to tell.
You can’t do any of this, however, if you don’t start.
Now. Pick up a pen. Open your computer.
Look at the clock.
Don’t move for thirty minutes. Begin:
Start with the five words:
There was a time when….
If brave, contact me on my website djadamson.com about putting the story you wrote up on my tab: Creative. This page is meant as a place for people to brave putting their creativity out there. If you are brave enough, I will comment on your story.