I know, people feel really strongly about whether or not to outline, but today—whether you’re a planer or not– I’m going to encourage you to think of your writing session as a road trip.
Road trips are fun, but usually we have a destination in mind. When, in the middle, with whoever is in the backseat complaining, and the last of the sandwiches eaten, it helps to know the answer to the question “are we nearly there yet?”
Traditional, western narrative stories have a structure, and here is a model for that.
Using the framework to brainstorm your story will help you both get to the end and, just when you’re getting sick of the story, figure out if you are indeed ‘nearly there yet’.
In keeping with this month’s theme of Achieving Wins and Celebrating, limit yourself to 1000 words for this story and just get it done.
Write a story that starts at the end. The story must include a flower.
I’ve given you the restriction of including a flower, because when we have too much freedom it is paralyzing. I bet as soon as I said ‘flower’ your mind starting turning over how it could get a flower into a story.
Starting at the end is a fun way to tell a story. It’s a fun for the reader, as they try to unpick the puzzle of how your character ended up *here*. It’s good for the writer because we aren’t tempted to write a story-with-no-point. We know it’s going somewhere and we have to figure out how to get there!
All our stories should be about something, should hvae a point, should make the reader say ‘ah, yes, I must keep reading to find out why…”. Often, in the process of writing our ideas, we forget this, or get lost in the details. Telling a story in reverse (or at least starting at the end and jumping back in time) is a great exercise to cure us of this.
Brainstorm some ways your story could start that would intrigue a reader. Is your character standing on the roof of a building looking over the edge? Are they running? Are the police leading them away? Are they laughing gleefully as someone plunges a knife through their heart? (Yes, more Star Trek references! Bonus points if you can identify the episode.)
Matthew Salesses is the author of three novels — one written in Flash Fiction — and the writing handbook “Craft In The Real World”. In this episode we talk about writing rules, audience, how to give and receive feedback and what it was like to write a flash fiction novel.
In which I talk about why we do this thing we do, and answer the top 10 questions I get asked, at StoryADay (including everything from where to put commas, to how to submit stories, to how to overcome imposter syndrome).