Vision: A Resource for Writers

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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!