In these pages I’ve focused on characters, settings, catalysts and names.
Out of these will spring ideas for new stories, for subplots, endings, red herrings, sequels and prequels.
If you write stories (novels and short stories, screenplays, stage plays, radio drama or comedy) that are about big events – war, natural disasters, economic crises, political scandals, etc – your characters will be responding to events rather than creating them, but their personality, expertise, attitude and skills will turn events in some way.
If, like me, you prefer stories that happen because of the people they are (character-driven plots), then even the smallest details can spark something major. The promise that’s broken; the object that’s lost; the person who never turned up; an overheard remark; a rash impulse… the possibilities are endless. The richer your characters, the better you know them, the more potential they have, even the minor cast members.
It might, though, be something sensual that fires up your imagination, rather than a face or a name.
In a workshop last year, I gave someone a tomato. It was an exercise about touch – with their eyes closed, they had to see what a random object sparked off in them. For Jan, the result was spectacular. From the feel and the smell, she knew it was a tomato, but because it was icy (it had been in the fridge), the association it sparked in her was love that had gone cold. She went home and started a new story that night, using a couple of characters she’d invented during the workshop, and she finished the first draft before Christmas.
Sometimes that’s all that’s needed – a spark, a tingle, a whisper. I hope you’ll find what you need here.