Finding the story

A friend recently asked me how I choose my stories.  Without giving it much thought, I replied, “I don’t… they choose me.”

That’s probably an oversimplified answer to the question, but it is accurate.  I get my motivation in a lot of places.  Some of them personal, some based on the experience of others, and sometimes the stories develop out of a word or a phrase that catches my eye.

A good example comes out of how I developed the story for my recently completed novel.  (A brilliant piece of paranormal suspense)

I got laid off from a job in January of ’07.  After the initial shock and concern for the future, I started thinking about what I was going to do next, after investing so many years in the job.  I called a friend and said, “I think I am going to get a new tattoo.”  It made strange sense to me, in an Evel Knievel kind of way.

My friend asked the obvious question, “What are you thinking about getting?”

“A Phoenix,” I quickly replied, after having already considered the appropriate symbolism.

Taking a moment to think about it, she then validated my choice by saying, “I can see that.  You’re Phoenix worthy.”

I heard that and started thinking about a character named Phoenix Worthy.  I started making notes, building an associated cast of characters, and playing around with an outline before I came up with a story.  I spent a lot of time getting to know Phoenix before I ever put him on paper. Once I started writing, he easily unfolded on paper as if I had known him all my life.

The point is, if I keep my ears and eyes on the world around me, story motivation is everywhere.

When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now
that I am grown up, they call me a writer. ~ Isaac Bashevis

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