Start with a blank page staring at me, fingers resting impatiently upon an ergonomic keyboard. Add in a blank mind tapped into a reservoir of experience and knowledge that runs in the background, not as conscious thought. Connect the power source of will, the voltage that will push out ideas from the background on out into my fingers.
My fingers begin to agitate, taking instruction and transcribing it into typed word. A story is birthed before me, yet in that first moment, it feels foreign and I feel uncertain. Is this of me? A second sentence follows; an idea for the next paragraph coalesces. I can see further into the future of this story, as if I’ve just endured my own big bang, from singularity to story idea in two seconds.
I’ll let it flow, introduce a character, a setting, a mode, a situation. Two dimensions greet a third, pushing outward, giving me room to work. Assuming I am not running up against mental forces that will serve as constraint to a story line, I run with it. Paragraph follows paragraph. I start to get a feel for my character, their age, their appearance, their thoughts, how they see the world, how they react to it. A name, think up a name. Avoid names from past stories, as well as future stories already in existence in rough outline. Where is this character? In what time period? Is she alone. and does she wish to be?
I’ll write up a prologue, and let my mind marinade on what still is unfamiliar. Sleep on it, ponder possibilities. When I return to write, the next element writes itself. And another, and another. I’ll know by thirty or forty pages in whether a story works for me. I’ll continue, but at some point, I go back to the beginning.
At the beginning, I gain familiarity. I change based on what is written up ahead, giving consistency. I have a better understanding of my character, who starts to feel real. And that feeling or realness jumps onto the screen through editing. My character comes alive, and has a story to tell.
I’ve written on a person deceased, who doesn’t discover heaven but does discover her perceptions of reality were off a bit. I’ve written dyke drama in a relationship jarred apart by broken trust. A transwoman dies from neglect, her partner loses her future to a false accusation. A 15 year old in 1969 America accidentally outs herself. A secret organisation of women takes on domestic violence. Church scandal visits another of my characters, who in the process discovers she underestimated her now elderly mother. A wife and mom realises something is missing in her life, a disconnect that must be rectified, and two partners out for a day of sailing encounter prejudice that leaves each stranded apart and struggling to survive.
Each one of those stories started not from a preformed idea at the time I began to type, but from a story that began to write itself by way of an opening sentence. I had no clue as to what would come next.
It is that element, my own surprise at what happens next, that leaves me so eager to write, so willing to sit for hours and hours, typing. As writer, I am reader, and we all like a good story.