Stories are a wonderful escape from the real world. Even if someone is recounting part of their day, if it is done correctly, I can be drawn in, wanting to hear every detail.
It’s the sharing of experiences and the emotions and revelations of the characters.
The zombies are evolving an actual thinking process? How will the characters cope?
Who was on the phone?
What caused the anguish on his face?
When did you first realize it was Bigfoot?
What makes a story good?
Is it the setting, characters, quotable lines?
I enjoy all kinds of settings. NYC in Blue Bloods. A bar or coffee shop from How I Met Your Mother and Friends. Space…okay so space is in a lot of the stories I like.
The characters I enjoy fall into all kinds of categories. Heroic, villans, relatable, and even grandiose.
As a writer, I am constantly analyzing what I consume through media.
What makes me like this book, article, movie, show, or story so much?
It’s fun to anticipate what the characters will say next. I’m not sure predictability makes for a poor story.
After all, like my high school Senior Composition teacher said, “Nobody went to see Titanic not knowing the outcome.”
Consuming helps form a story.
I consume through my Facebook and Instagram feeds. I consume through the TV shows we watch. While I’m reading someone else’s works I’m consuming.
Some of that consumption can be helpful. As I’m watching a show or reading a book I think, “oh man that’s a great angle. Oh wow, I could incorporate that somehow.”
Then I have to write it down. Even if I am not typing away at a fantastic scene, I need to at least write down the line or idea which I found so inspiring. If I don’t take a moment to jot it down for safekeeping, the idea will be lost forever.
Take what you’ve consumed and selectively throw it up.
When it comes time to write it is important to remember that it is perfectly fine to take inspiration from other stories.
I’m not talking about plagiarism.
If I write a story where four children travel through a wardrobe to a land called Narnia searching for a fawn named Mr. Tumnus, I’m ripping off.
But if my story incorporates four siblings, or fawns, or a random doorway to another world, it is not plagiarism. At this point, I’m taking something I love and letting it inspire a new story.
And that’s something I need to remind myself all of the time.
I’m always so worried that what I put into a story someone will think I’ve ripped off from someplace else. That guy lost his memory? Seen it. This person is lost (emotionally, physically, mentally)? Seen it all.
Wait a minute I’ve already read a book placed in a post-apocalyptic earth.
But then I have to remind myself, of course, I will be ripping some form of media off. Shoot I may be ripping an aspect of regular life off.
A self-absorbed president? Wait, did he get this from real life or the Hunger Games?
That sort of thing is just going to happen. And it can make for a really great story. I often tell of real stories which happen in our own home while writing about life lessons or parenting.
I could always exaggerate a bit to use the same circumstances in a story.
And will some people hate it?
“Yes, they will indeed. 98 3/4ths percent guaranteed.” -Dr. Suess
But write it anyway.
Create it because you can’t live in a world without it. Write it because someone else may find the same enjoyment in your story as you do.
So what makes a great story?
Write your heart out. Let yourself bleed out onto page after page. Invest yourself, your experiences, what you have consumed over the course of your life, and the story will emerge.