We can’t help ourselves, can we? We see them everywhere: stories. How long has this man been driving this boat? What if we set out today and don’t come back? What do those dolphins and whales think as they watch us watching them?
How we build ideas
As we see situations all around us we accumulate ideas. It’s hard to work out how we could ever be blocked. “If you run out of ideas, just go for a walk,” says a writer-friend of mine. She gives an example. “See that man working on the top of that tower? What can he see that you can’t? What if he were witness to a murder and didn’t realise it?”
Yes, the question “What if?” always brings results.
But why do we continually find ideas and why do we need to read and write them? Do they really help to explain life to us? Or are they there merely to entertain and distract?
Someone also recently explained the term “flash fiction”. Yes, it’s something short and pithy. It may be written very quickly – though actually I’d dispute that. A “flash” story hangs around with me for at least a day before I actually write it. But it tells a particular type of story – one that gives an illuminating insight, a flash of understanding.
Some say there are only a certain number of stories – seven, thirty-nine or even one. It is also true that the same stories are told over and over again, though vary in each telling. Stories also have a recognisable shape. Yet the people in them live up to the moment the story and beyond its ending, as well as during the story itself. Story has a shape we recognise. Writers frame that shape rather as an artist or a photographer composes a picture, though selecting details from a series of events rather than from what we see.
Why writers then?
Some of us seem compelled to tell the stories. Are we born to it or do we learn the craft? Possibly a bit of both. Maybe we see the stories more clearly than others. Is there some mysticism here? And / or we have the capacity for telling them well. I guess we offer a picture of life, lightly interpreted.