Monday, November 14, 2011

Whittling a Story Idea



Where do you get your ideas? I’ve been asked that dozens of times. I’ve given it some thought and I’ve decided the best way to answer that query is with an image.


My brain is landscaped with a forest of ideas. (Think Germany’s Black Forest.) Novel sparks branch out on a weekly and sometimes, daily basis. Clearly, I can’t tackle writing fifty books a year, so I’m required to seek out the best sticks—the ones that will endure. The ones that will aid me in telling the best stories.


I gather handfuls of twigs, surveying them for their durability and shape. I examine them, estimating how they’ll turn out after I begin the whittling process. I tune in, as I meander through my thoughts, listening for crackling under my feet or watching until a bird ascends from a branch, triggering a gentle bounce. This process is akin to identifying a glimpse of a character, a snatch of conversation, or a compelling plot concept. I take notes. I pay attention.


Then I put my ideas to the test by cutting them. It takes me months and sometimes as long as a year to slice off the outer bark as I determine what about this particular stick will endure or even if it will endure once it’s been stripped to the core. I’m patient. I’m disciplined. I’m intent on shedding off all the extraneous in order to discover, as I write, the beauty beneath the bark.


And the fresh wooded scent grows more pungent as I work the stick into a story.


Where do you get your ideas?


*Come see who All “I”s are on today here!
**photo by flickr

23 comments:

  1. Okay....can I just say I love this post? Especially the line: beauty beneath the bark.

    Girl, I can't wait to read your work when it gets published.

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  2. Great analogy! My ideas mostly come from hearing old family stories or from reading period newspapers. (Of course, I write historicals!) Usually what ends up happening is that pieces (situations, people) of several stories simmer together in my head until a story forms. Or at the least the basics of the story. I have to actually write it out to see what happens!

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  3. Real life, always. I see situations in real life, and my novels take them and wonder "What if ... "

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  4. I'm with Katie- your writing simply sings. I can easily see myself snuggled up with your novel, soaking up every beating word.

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  5. Beautiful analogy! You write in lovely word pictures.

    I get inspiration from songs, headlines, anything that triggers a conversation with the characters in my head. I love people watching and creating stories from what I see.

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  6. I also get story ideas on an almost weekly basis. Some I can toss away immediately. Others stay with me for a while. Then some, I can not stop thinking about.

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  7. Like others have said, I love your analogy and writing style. *beautiful*

    My story ideas come from an amalgamation of experience, things I see or hear during the day, and sometimes just good ol' fashioned brainstorming!

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  8. Wendy, you are a master word whittler. I look forward to the day I can read your stories in print.

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  9. Your writing is so eloquent and colorful. I love it! Usually art is imitating life when it comes to my ideas. I enjoy people watching and trying to figure out their "story" and oftentimes bizarre dreams that I've had.

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  10. I love your heart for story ... and your determination to find a worthwhile story to write.
    Where do I find story? Usually at the end of the question,"What if?"

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  11. Great descriptive. I get ideas daily, too. For me, I use my iPhone's built in video camera to record my ideas. Later, I watch these videos and decide if they are truly worth writing.

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  12. Beautiful word picture, Wendy. I usually find a story in my morning time reading scripture. Something stands out and I start to see contemporary characters, dialogue and scenes form. And I'm sure it mixes with experiences, thoughts, and feelings I have. Maybe I realize it at the time. Maybe not. Loved the post.

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  13. I too look forward to the day I can hold a Wendy Paine Miller book in my hands. :) Loved this post.

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  14. You paint such a lovely picture with your words!

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  15. Another great analogy, Wendy.

    I get my ideas from reading history books! ;)

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  16. Wow, such an awesome analogy, Wendy. I could seriously smell that scent of wood at the end.

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  17. Love the beauty in which you have described your writing. Another wonderful post and I am with all the above in saying I can't wait to read your book:)

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  18. Lovely post, Wendy! I love that little bird in the picture. My ideas come so randomly. Like, the other day I was driving home and I saw a student driver on the freeway and now I'm writing a book for NaNo about a girl who steals a student driver car. LOL! It was a challenge coming up with WHY she was so desperate to steal a car. Ideas, the sticks, come easily - but the whittling process, the plots, are the trick!

    Amy

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  19. Wow, that sounds so lovely - I wish it sounded that nice when my stories came to me :) They usually just hit me - SMACK! - right in the middle of a movie or a book or a conversation. And then they won't leave me alone until I round them out enough to make a solid plot. Then the problem is setting them aside until I finish the story I'm already working on.

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  20. i get my ideas from my clients. never ending supply of ideas there, for sure.

    i'm with katie...love the beauty beneath the bark line. such a nice image. :)

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  21. I'm on the hub's computer so I can finally comment!!!
    Wow, you have some kicker lines in there!
    I'm not a good whittler but I'm not awash with ideas. Every so often I get them but they're more along a character popping in my head with a problem. I write it down and hold onto it in case I'm able to play with it later. ;-)

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  22. And your ideas always amaze me:) I love your picture of how you get them. Not sure I have a process and I feel that is where I am weak.

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  23. Lovely, Wendy. I wish I could say I had such a decisive process to sort the weeds in my brain, but sadly, my branches simply spout and tangle from the great unknown. Oh, to be so organized :)

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