Sometimes we forget that writing a story is about possibility. We start with a few white sheets of paper and our imagination and we set off on an adventure. It’s a risk that leaves your mouth dry. It’s also pretty exciting.
In her darkly comic story, ‘How To Be A Writer’, in her book, Self-Help, Lorrie Moore’s narrator comes up with random prompts when she has writer’s block. One is: Girl gets on a bus.
I love it because it shows just how many options we have when we start with just that initial idea, that first firing of a synaptic cylinder in our creative engines, no matter how ridiculous (or random) it is.
Girl gets on a bus dot-dot-dot
Girl gets on a bus. But, there is a bomb on the bus, which is the movie Speed, an action thriller. Girl gets on the bus and refuses to give up her seat for white folks – there you have Rosa Parks, a historical story. Girl gets on a bus to go look for her father – problem is, she is only four years old. Girl gets on a bus and meets the boy of her dreams. A pregnant girl gets on a bus, girl gets hit by a bus. The possibilities are endless.
Follow the girl, follow the bus
If you don’t like plotting or too much structure in your story, you can just follow the story, the characters and see where it all takes you.
For example, say you put your girl on the bus, she is going on a trip to visit her grandparents. OK, so the bus stops in the middle of the night at filling station and the passengers get out to have a bite to eat.
OK, so what next? The girl goes to the rest room to freshen up. When she comes out, the bus and all the passengers have disappeared. No one at the station remembers a bus. The waitress at the diner blankly denies ever having serving her.
What is going on? We don’t know and we have to follow the story to find out what happens next.
Keep in mind, readers or viewers want a sense of adventure, a vicarious distraction, escape. We don’t have to solve the world’s problems with our stories, but we can make a few people forget their own problems for an hour or two.
Get on the bus!
“Writers have no real area of expertise. They are merely generalists with a highly inflamed sense of punctuation.” ― Lorrie Moore
If you enjoyed this post, read:
- 6 Superhero Writing Tips From Stan Lee
- Harnessing The Power Of Time In Your Storytelling
- The Starter Block: Getting Ready For NaNoWriMo
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