Can Stories Write Themselves?

I had an idea for a story recently based on an image I saw somewhere (I can’t remember where, hence no image for this post). It was the figure of a womanin a dress and high-heels hurrying through a tree-lined avenue on a misty, rainy evening. It conjured up questions about where she was hurrying to and why she was hurrying. I wanted to know more.

I started to write and found myself creating a couple of characters and then placing them. I didn’t consciously place them – it just came to mind. The image I saw made me think of Paris and that’s where I imagine the story to take place. I know nothing about Paris beyond what I’ve read and seen in films.

Some of the details I have consciously started to create by researching French female names and places in Paris. The location still seemed to come about without me doing too much work to find it. I now have to find out about the area I am writing about. This shouldn’t be too difficult with the internet at my fingertips, and my knowledge of cities and parks anywhere can do the rest. Fotopedia seems to be a great source of inspiration for locations.

It always amazes me where the ideas come from when I only have a couple of thoughts about a story. Starting to write seems to pull things out of the imagination, but it happens almost subconsciously. From the image of a single figure in a photograph I created a home, a house-maid, a stranger and a situation that is incomplete in my head. There is something going on for this woman but I’m not yet sure what it is. I have to trust that putting pen to paper will pull it out of me.

Lots of partial ideas and fragments of story can seem to be lodged in my head but I’m not sure how to put them together. This is part of the process, it seems. Write and something happens to start linking them together. At other times I have to sit and think about how to link them.

I’ve often heard the saying that a story will write itself. While this obviously isn’t literally true, it does seem to have some substance. Conversation and events can come to mind while I’m scribbling away with my pen, or tapping on the keyboard. In fact they almost seem to be on the page before I’ve thought about them. They seem to come straight off the end of the pen and take me by surprise. I often know where a story is heading but I don’t always know the events that will take over people’s lives in the story and this can sometimes change my perception of where the story is headed after all.

It makes writing almost as fascinating as reading.

One comment

  1. There’s certainly a lot of writing going on … What you say above immediately reminded me of the famous quote attributed to Goethe:

    “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves as well. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen accidents, meetings and material assistance that no one could have dreamed would come their way.”

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