Finding My Creature is excited to present its first Guest Blogger from A Scenic Route, the wonderful Kirsten! She is a microscopist by day, word wielding creature by night and is always full of inspirational advice and insight about the journey that is writing a book. I have always loved the enticing little snippets Kirsten shares on her blog and I am thrilled she has taken the time to tell us where she finds her stories.
This is her journey, enjoy.
Hi there, fellow writing and reading creatures! I’m Kirsten, and usually I blog about my novel writing adventures at A Scenic Route, but today I have the pleasure of joining Anushka here at Finding My Creature.
I’ve always loved Anushka’s blog title and when she invited me to visit I immediately knew I wanted to write about how I found my own creature. So make a cup of tea and pull up a chair, because today I’m going to tell a story. In fact, I’m going to tell a story about where my stories come from.
I didn’t always have my own stories. I really wanted them though, so I dutifully learned to type and signed up for creative writing class, thinking that I would finally learn to create stories to rival the ones I read and loved. One of our first class assignments, naturally, was to write a story.
The thing was, no one ever told us how to find it.
“It’s just there,” the instructor said. “Pick a character. Find a problem for him or her to solve. Decide on your setting. Pick a genre.”
I followed his instructions. I wanted romance. I wanted rocket ships. I wanted poetic language. I wanted to escape my mundane small town life and soar. I wanted the world under my fingers.
But I was seventeen. I’d never been kissed. What came out onto the page was nothing like what I read in my favorite books.
My words were stilted. My sentences lay mired in passive voice. My characters stood silent. My plotting was implausible.
Worst of all I had no story.
I decided my pen was better suited to chronicling my own life in journals, recording the exquisite agony of growing up, searching for romance, and reaching for dreams that always seemed to be out of my grasp. My creative writing garden lay fallow.
What I didn’t know was that while I was away living my life, my creative earth was gathering nutrients, fertilized by the vines and weeds that lived and died with the triumphs and disappointments of my days.
I set out to live my life. I studied in Europe. I joined a rock band. I worked in laboratory. I traveled to exotic islands in the tropics. I fell in love and got married.
Sometimes the writing voice in my head would give me a nudge. I read stories and thought I’d like them better if they ended differently. I asked myself whether the characters weren’t just a bit too perfect. I objected to anachronisms in the setting. I read the stories I loved twice. Three times. I wanted more like those.
“What if …” I asked myself, “I wrote the story I wanted to read? What would that story be about?”
In response, the subconscious Muse held up a mirror, and instead of my own reflection, I saw a different face, a hero for the story I wanted to write. When I slipped into his skin, I could leave my own world behind; when I saw with his eyes, I could find a greater truth. He would give me the voice I was afraid to use, he would speak the words I was afraid to say. He had endured more than I could ever bear, and he would triumph over greater odds than I ever could.
I had to know more. Who was this person? What was his passion? Who loved him more than anyone else? Where was he broken?
Even though I hadn’t written a word, I began to turn those questions over in my imagination and got answers that surprised me.
“This is cool,” I thought. “I should write it down.”
Still, I didn’t write. I was afraid of my own incompetence.
I decided to tell a screenwriter acquaintance about my story idea in the hopes that she could give me some guidance about what to do with it. I wanted to show her I was organized about this, so I wrote a summary of what the story was about.
But then my characters started talking.
I wrote down what they said, where they said it, and why. I was exhilarated when I found myself lost in my story world, and wanted more. I knew the writing was terrible, but it was only for myself, so I persevered. And once in a while a line would make me pause.
“I would enjoy reading this if someone else had written it.” I thought. “Dang, this might be a book.”
It wasn’t long before I stepped back from the Muse’s first mirror and noticed other faces, reflections of other characters, a hallway of mirrors with faces other than my own. Each of them had a story as well.
This is how I had found my way to my stories.
So, where do stories come from? I think they come from our life experience, filtered through the silt of the subconscious, watered and nurtured with regular writing. Sometimes in this garden, lightning strikes, thunder rumbles, and when the storm is over, a story emerges from the dust.
How about you? If you could be anyone, or anywhere, you wanted, who would you be? Where would you go? What would you accomplish?
You just might find a story in your answers.