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Uncle Orson's Writing Class
Starting a Short Story
March 5, 2003


Question:

What are some of the questions you ask yourself to start a story?

-- Anonymous

OSC Replies:

Actually, the first trigger to writing a story (or novel) is to find some detail or even or situation in the real world that makes you wonder - how would someone deal with this? What if this situation were different somehow? You exaggerate or clarify something from the real world and then insert a character into it - or several characters - and try to imagine what their different responses might be.

For instance: Writer comes to high school to give a speech. But the student who is most excited about becoming a writer refuses to go. The other kids - the ones who have read her stories and loved them - are baffled, till one of them says, "She's just jealous. She just doesn't like it that somebody else is more famous as a writer than she is." And the others all agree as if this were true. But ... the student has a completely different reason ... what is it? Why not go?

Notice - the why questions start almost immediately. But the trigger is that initial situation - writer comes to high school one student refuses to go, and it's the student you'd expect to go. That's really the key - a situation where something is not as you would expect it, where there's something out of place or wrong ... and you ask yourself why, and start letting the story develop from there.

-- 05 March 2003


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