School is out for the summer, and even though it will be hot and sunny for a while, I hope to have more time to spend writing.
So what generates story ideas for me? Sometimes it’s just a few words spoken from someone, and sometimes it’s witnessing a random event, that instantly gives my mind a story idea. But nothing generates a story for me like weather: rain or snow.
When my (now adult), children were in elementary school, we lived in a house that had a wide front porch with two 3-person wooden swings on opposite ends, that faced each other. One of those swings never saw the direct sun of daylight, (always shaded), and it was there that I spent those lazy summers reading John Grisham novels. But you probably know that porch swings are places good for more than just reading. An old boss once told me that before air conditioning was invented, the porch swing was the quintessential locale for neighborhood socializing; every wife wanted a porch swing where she could spend evenings and time connecting with family and the neighbors. My swing was the venue for: reading, creating new ideas, girlfriends venting heartaches, resolving career challenges, and the perfect place to grieve for lost loved ones who had been so precious we simply decided it must have been a mistake. No matter the weather, that porch swing became our culture. On rainy days, a large umbrella on our shoulder kept wind-driven raindrops from soaking us; on snowy days we wrapped ourselves in super-insulated blankets and just kept on pushing and talking as we watched the midwestern flakes float to the ground.
My first published story, ‘Heaven’s Fastest Holy Kid,’ was written in the basement of that house. It began on a very cold and gray, rainy November day. After their breakfast, I drove my children to the end of the street and watched as they loaded onto the school bus. I returned home to fresh coffee and WordPerfect on my downstairs computer. There, the sound of tapping on the keyboard was as constant as the tapping of raindrops on the basement’s daylight windows. Eventually, feeling starvation, I printed out those pages (18 of them), and walked upstairs to eat breakfast, when my doorbell rang. I answered it. There stood my children, soaked and freezing from walking home from the bus stop…it was after 3:00 and school was out.
What generates story ideas for you? Is it the sound of waves on a beach? The clacking sound of a train on its track? Maybe it’s the popping of a cork, or the precious sound of your baby working a pacifier while sleeping? Whatever it is that makes your idea coil into a story, don’t let it pass; don’t think that a great story idea streaking through your mind, awakening you at 3:17 AM isn’t worth jotting down, right then, because it is. Identify, get to know what makes you write.