Finding the Stories that Matter
By Lisa Blair
Copyright © 2009 by Lisa Blair, All Rights Reserved
Sometimes the hardest part is the part that seems easy. Ideas are a dime
a dozen, right? So why do people struggle to find a story? What makes
one idea something you can get passionate about verses something that
flops or fizzles out?
Bet you wish I had the answer, eh? Well, I can tell you how I found the
stories that matter to me. Maybe it'll help you find your stories, too.
When I was a teenager, I read. A lot. Everything from cereal boxes to
War and Peace. I was miserably poor, but the library was my friend, and
I found when I got older and had a little more pocket change, that there
were a few books that I missed. Books that had really mattered to me:
Wolf's Hour by Robert McCammon, Stephen Donaldson's Mordant's Need
duology, Robin McKinley's Hero and the Crown, and rough dozen other
titles that got checked out of the library so often I practically owned
them. As soon as I could afford to, I did own them. They have had a
special shelf in my bedroom or office ever since, and a dozen more
titles have been added to the favorites shelf over the years. I'm
betting most of you have a shelf like that, or maybe just a book or two.
Those stories, the ones that had the power to grip you and pull you
along, the ones whose spines are creased and whose pages are smudged,
those stories can help you find your stories. No, I'm not
suggesting plagiarism. What I'm suggesting is a revisit to an old
friend, without the rosy glasses of remembrance. Rereading a book you
adored, with a close eye for why you adored it, what made it work
for you, can teach you a lot about the stories that matter to you. The
same goes for TV or movies or anything that stuck with you a long time
after it was done. Figuring out why these stories touched or inspired or
thrilled you can reveal the underlying themes that have the power to
grip your imagination.
For me, the common thread was that each of those books influenced the
person I am today. Some in simple ways (I like my steaks rare), and
others in profound ways that helped me find my way through rough times.
I fell in love with the characters who empowered themselves to change
their lives, the ones who survived against the worst odds, the ones who
rose above their situation and made a difference, big or small. Those
stories were my stories, my themes. The deepest concepts of my favorite
books held at their core the themes I wanted to reflect and interpret
(and sometimes reinterpret) in my own writing. Those themes, in turn,
are the measuring stick I hold ideas up to.
When you find that story that you're passionate about, the one your
heart really wants to tell, it's quite a rush. Enjoy!