finding the story

I don’t know a ton about journalism, but I’ve seen my share of movies about journalists who “refuse to go too far,” and read plenty of news stories about journalists who, in a show of ethics, refuse to reveal their sources. I’ve also heard stories (via television specials and movies) about how far journalist will go to get a story: head straight into the heart of war, deceive friends, stay up all night, pound the streets to seek out sources.

In certain ways, I’m reminded about the search for stories that we creative writers face. I know that I am always looking for a good story–that, and good photographs: my eyes and ears these days search for stories and a good picture. Something looks or sounds good, and then I wonder how I would frame such a story or such a shot. I think in many ways, I’ve sought stories my entire life.

Most dramatically, in my twenties, I tried to CREATE my own drama and justify it by saying, “I’ll write about this someday.” I broke up with perfectly decent boyfriends in cruel fashion because a story isn’t a story without conflict. I’ve gotten myself hurt to capture feeling, too. I’d say that was going too far. Like a well written story, you can’t be a tyrant and force situations.

Here are some other ways I’ve heard writers find a story:

  • A Famous Writer once announced that she/he was on the search for a new story. She/he urged us “to be interesting!” We tried our best to be very boring.
  • Tobias Wolff’s protagonist in “Old School” steals a story.
  • I’ve read essays by old French philosophers.
  • I’ve sat in cafes and eavesdropped.
  • I check out post secret
  • I’ve used writing prompts.
  • I’ve emulated the great writers.

What have you done to find a story?



Filed under Memories, Writing

4 responses to “finding the story

  1. w


    I’ve also been inspired by photographs and writing prompts and, of course, the great writers.

    Once I used a newspaper article about an odd job—a mobile advertisement, where a long line of bicyclists rode around town promoting a product (can’t remember which now).

    I also use gestures/tics by friends to open up a story or a character.

  2. w: those are cool inspirations. i especially like the photographs. and i totally forgot about reading the best of craigslist for hilarious stories, characters, and ideas!

  3. Stephanie

    I use my dreams quite a bit for inspiration. I also read Octavia Butler’s non-fiction essay “Positive Obsession,” when I want to connect or get refocused. I remember you talking about music once in a previous post. I use that too for inspiration. I use pictures every once in a while but most recently, I find that going out to museums, cemeteries, or other densely populated (alive or dead) places are interesting too. I usually take a pad of paper to take notes. Sometimes, I take my digi cam to take my own pictures.

  4. I often start with ideas, so it’s reading science or history that gets me going. However, to fill out characters and the like, I find it’s often the tics of frends, or even my own, that come into play. I also sometimes get started up by things observed by people around me. And living abroad is, in a way, not just a way of finding “my story” but also of giving myself tons of material to write about. That said, I also find that I have the urge to keep traveling when I can, and while I can, so as to make it possible to write about more and more places with some degree of familiarity. China in January, for example, and next summer, I’d like to go to Russia, even tho my friends think I am crazy for wanting that.

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