Monday, August 10, 2015

Now Where Did That Come From?


I pray everyone had a good weekend, and that August being almost half over doesn’t surprise or frighten anyone.   (The older you get, the more you’ll wish we could control time with a remote control.  The pause and rewind buttons would be my favorite.)

So, over the course of the weekend, I started working on a short story.  As I began putting it together, I wondered where the idea came from. 

As every other writer on the planet must, I end up walking away from the work to manage daily affairs.  I must walk the same path through the property dozens of times a day.  It was during one of those strolls that I realized where the main prop of the story sparked the idea of the story.

So, have you ever had a time when you began working on a piece and just stopped and wondered, “Now where on earth did that come from?” ? But you can’t stop the project. And you can’t prevent yourself from the research.  Don’t fight it.  Finish the piece.  Eventually you’ll find your answer. 

The questions I would ask you are these:  How important is it for you to know what sparked the idea for your work?  Why do you need to know where the idea came from?   Do you need to know?

As a writer, I would answer that we all need a basic idea of where the work was born.  If we do not, giving the piece proper life will become difficult at one point or another.  Often we find ourselves setting a really great poem or story aside because it just suddenly dies at our fingertips.  That can be because we never knew what sparked the idea for it; or we have forgotten as the story progresses. 

So how do we figure it out and keep track of the origins of our ideas?

Write it down.   When the first few sentences; or paragraphs; of your piece put the idea into place, write the main prop, location, or idea on an outline.   I know, most writers start with outlines and/or agendas and  journalized research.  But we ALL have those stories or poems that just happen, and we rush to get it on paper before we lose it.  It’s these impromptu pieces I’m talking about.

Retrace your steps of the day the idea came to life.   Something in your path or in your activities of that day gave birth to your piece.  Retracing your steps and chronicling the day will help pinpoint the origin of the idea; and provide a foundation for research that may be needed as the story grows.

Picture it. Once the trigger for the idea is discovered, if possible, take a picture of it and its surroundings.  Keep the photos for it by your work space, to help maintain your focus.  As you look at the photos while the piece progresses, you’ll feed your story with little things you didn’t see the first time; when the idea was born.  There will be story matter in the surroundings of the story’s trigger. 

Research the trigger.  We all know that every prop, every place, and every person has some sort of history.  Find it.  It does not matter how fictional your story, it has to have its tidbit of reality.  {We talked about that in my blog from July 13, 2015; here at WordPainters.}   Once you have the reality, it doesn’t matter if the reader recognizes the prop or the place through your embellishments of fiction.  But knowing the history of the story’s main focus helps you know how to work it into your finest work yet.

Never let it die.  Even if the idea seems to be fading and becoming old or stagnant as you work it, something made it a good idea to get the piece started. If you set the work aside, make it a temporary thing.  Go back to it later, but never let it die.

A writer’s stories become a chronicling of their life.  As the ideas come, keep record of them.  Somehow, each idea that is meant to be a story or poem will find a way to become one.  The only thing that stands between the inspiration and  the completion of the narrative is you.  And when you get in the way of the work, you impede the progress of your own quest.

Sometimes it is easier to figure out and define where an idea came from than we let it be.  Just take a step back, move out of your own way, and let it reveal itself.

What is the current quest in your chronicles?  Where did it come from?  And where will it lead you?

Let God light your way as you fulfill the quest at hand.

Until next time…

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