Thursday, October 29, 2009

But why mommy?

All right. So now you have an idea. The question. It’s time to dig deeper. Here’s that nurturing part that I was speaking of yesterday.

I’m going to use examples. My question is what if a very particular and familiar metaphorical expression was literal. I am being vague on purpose as it is the entire premise, the diving board, of the story. I’ll share when it’s more developed, but right now it’s my little secret. Sorry.

I saw in my mind’s eye (I love that phrase!) two people sitting in a classroom. Next step is to ask more questions. The first thing I need to know is who are these people and why are they in this room. Well, let’s ask them. The lady is returning to college. Why? She is now a single mom. Why? Her husband recently passed away. Why?

See how this works. I approach the situation like an inquisitive five year old. Just keep asking why or how until the character throws their hands in the air and says, “I don’t know.” Then, I change course. There was a second person in the room. And so it begins.

Now notice that I said ask the questions like a five year old and not like a mafia henchman. These characters must trust you in order to open up and tell their story. Ask open-ended questions, not yes or no. Don’t lead them. They are in charge. It’s your job to listen.

I’ve also noticed that there’s always the one character that is quick to talk. The chatty Cathy that has much to say. For me, this person tends to be my protagonist. The quiet one, the more reluctant, tends to be a strong support character that helps drive the story and tends to maintain that air of mystery around them throughout the story.

The second person that was sitting in the classroom, he’s not talking. I know he’s male, a key part of the story, and has green eyes, but beyond that—notta. But I have faith that he will talk when he’s ready.

A side note—I like to find the names to my characters early on. Normally just the first name will do until I know more about them. For me, this makes them more real. Let’s them know that I am taking them seriously. And then I can also stop referring to them as character 1 or character 2.

So, when you get that idea, talk to it. Ask it questions, and then listen. If it doesn’t talk, just wait. It may not trust you yet. Show it that you are there and committed to letting the world hear their story.


  1. All I need is a story idea to occur to me so I can follow this awesome advice.

  2. Check out It is a cool place to get writing prompts. And it's a pretty neat community. Another one is

    Sometimes just getting started is the tricky part. Borrowing someone elses diving board can help get your feet wet. Then you can be more confident in your own ideas.

    I found that true with short stories. I never could finish one. I didn't think I had any business writing one, because personally, I don't really read them. But after the paint story, using that prompt, I felt more confident to go back and play with some of my own ideas. And short stories are a great way to publish your writing. And hone your skills. Let's you play with a concept. Wait. I'll stop here. Let me think on this. This could probably be blown up to a blog post. HAHA!