Storylines are easy enough for me to write. I can dive in and scribble a reasonable story without running up against any vacuous spaces, moments where my thoughts go to dead air and sputter spitting out communicative content. The problem comes after the last sentence, not after the first.
When my eldest was a child, say years 4 through 8 or so, she insisted on bedtime stories. We read to our children each night, but there was no getting off with such an easy out, not for me. To satiate her story needs, she insisted I had to make up a story on the fly, every night.
This was not a twenty-four episode television season, with time to write, refine, or practise before presentation, nor a weekly magazine or newspaper column where I could work an idea through before delivery. This was improv all the way, created in the moment, pressure on, because the disappointment in the eyes of an expectant child would bore through me like a laser through paper if I went blank.
It is a fortunate thing these nightly stories do not exist in recorded form, because I am certain these were not world-class tales. I played to my audience of one, her feedback guideposts to follow. I recall one night storytime grew quite silly, her constant laughter precious. Of course, it later meant explaining to parent number two why it was our child, instead of falling into the expected daze of presleep, lay wide awake broadcasting an infectious laugh. I managed that easily enough.
Perhaps the storytelling experience taught me to take a cue and run with it, like a cat with the end cut of a skein of yarn taking off to wind it around every fixture touching the floor. One spoken word or sentence exploded into a story universe, which is exactly how I write now, the first sentence easing me away from the let down of a story ending.
Finishing a story, where I have invested untold hours of time in its creation and honing, is hard, not because endings are hard – endings are a playground for a creative writer. I can go anywhere from the wild abandon of ecstasy to the burning acreage of scorched earth and it matters not, because I must leave my imaginary world, but the characters, some now intimate friends, stay behind.
The ease for me is to start anew, a pioneer setting out to leave the pain of here behind by building new life elsewhere. The first sentence of a story is my big bang, the emergence of a new universe into existence. From one sentence, I feel the raw unfiltered emotion of a time and place and of a character, pulled in to view their journey. The pain of loss becomes wonder and intrigue, an investment in listening as she tells me a story I will chronicle for others.