How Does a Story Start?

Writers have a myriad of different methods for starting a story, and writing a story. Some write linearly – they have an opening scene and a pretty good idea of their characters, and how the story should end.  They start at the beginning and end at the end.  Other writers are “pantsers,” taking the barest shimmer of an idea and sitting and letting their fingers fly on the keyboard, building the story as they go without any type of outline.  Some writers are character-focused  They have a great set of characters, and build the story around them.  Some writers are scene-focused.  They imagine a scene, and build their story around that.

These last two types are sometimes called “spiral writers.”  A spiral writer has a kernel of an idea to work with.  Someone they saw or met, or a scene they observed somewhere, becomes the idea that inspires the bigger story.  From that central idea the story spirals bigger and bigger, like a shell, until that small seed at the center turns into a complete story.

smallbarbarianI am one of those writers.  Usually, my “seed” is a picture of a man.  He doesn’t have to be doing anything in particular, but something about him needs to be memorable or trigger some emotion in me.  This picture was the seed for Fairest of the Faire (coming June 2015 from The Wild Rose Press).  I was visiting the local renfair with my BFF Erika, our two girls with us (12 and 10 at the time).  This guy definitely caught my eye.  He caught Erika’s eye too.  We giggled like middle-schoolers.  Then we took his picture.  And then, there was a story building in my mind.

Fairest of the Faire features Gage Youngblood, a carpenter, avowed bachelor, and sometime Faire performer, and Connie Meyers, a widowed schoolteacher with a couple of dark-suited goons stalking her.  When I built the character of Gage, I used this picture as inspiration.  The real man in the picture will never know, because I never got his name, not even when I asked him to stand for a picture with the girls.  That scene ended up in Fairest of the Faire.

smallbarbariangirlsNot that I’m a huge man-watcher.  Well, that’s what I’d like to say.  But I’m married, not dead, and I recognize a good looking man when I see one.  The barbarian at the renfaire was one of many inspirations I could have latched onto.  There are always really great looking, costumed players at the renfaire.


So, I guess I AM a man-watcher!  The latest man I want to write a story for is this guy.  His picture appeared in the paper, in a story about an ongoing lawsuit against a skydiving company at our local airport.  He looks so intense, so focused.  I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere.  I’ll find it, and he will become the hero in a future novel.

My BFF Erika is still my favorite man-watching buddy, even though we live a thousand miles from each other.  We share pictures of kilted men on our facebook pages all the time.  Our friends think we are crazy.  But how can we help ourselves?  So many good-looking men, so little time!

An excerpperf5.000x8.000.inddt from Fairest of the Faire, coming June 5 from The Wild Rose Press!

“Who said anything about a relationship?” he said, standing up so he could tower over her again. “I’m just trying to have a little fun. You know, fun?”

If he’d been an animal, she was sure he’d have had hair raised on the back of his neck, he seemed so angry, and it struck her painfully. She hadn’t wanted to anger him or hurt him. She turned away from him and closed her eyes to tamp down the tears she knew would come if she let them. She crossed her arms over her chest, to hold in the pain. Being tired made her much too vulnerable.

“Yes,” she finally said. “I know about fun. Life isn’t always fun, though.”

“Princess.” His voice was soft, tender. “I won’t hurt you. It’s not in my plan.”

Despite herself, she felt the shivers of desire race down from her shoulders, down her arms and legs, and back up to that secret, soft place at her core. She bowed her head and gritted her teeth, hoping for the feeling to go away.

“And what is your plan, Gage?”

“It’s a simple plan. I want you to feel good. I want to feel good, too.”

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8 thoughts on “How Does a Story Start?

  1. I use renaissance/medieval festival in my Soulmate series (working on book 2 now), and I’m excited to see how you weave the event into your story. Love the story inspiration.

    • I spent many weekends at RenFaires over the years, and a bunch of my friends plus my brother all are performers of one sort or another at them (my brother is a blacksmith). I love the pageantry and the costumes. Especially the costumes! Thanks for your comment!

  2. Nodding here on seeing someone in real life and thinking “Now he’d make a good hero.” I’ve started stories in the same manner, with a mental picture of a character and the story builds from there. Best of luck with the upcoming book!

  3. I love going to Ren Faires, Susabelle! And I’ve often said, “I’m married, but there’s nothing wrong with window shopping as long as I don’t play with the merchandise.” 😉 Wishing you all the best with your upcoming release!

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