In the Beginning – Make It Up

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King

What causes a writer to stare uncertainly at the blank white page: lack of unique ideas, not sure of how to start a powerful memoir, or even the most effective way to begin a thriller?

“Story Starters” by Lou Willett Stanek, PhD. has some excellent ideas to help jump start your creative juices. Chapter 8 suggests using found objects as a story starter. There could be a fascinating story in an old letter found hidden in a drawer liner, in the words of a secret diary, in the gruff sounding chime of a grandfather clock, in the glass angel for the top of a Christmas tree, or in a bronzed baby shoe. These objects could be the subject of a short story, the beginning of a novel, or could trigger a long lost memory to begin your memoir.

Chapter 5 talks of the dangers of using real-life events or people. Stanek’s advice for fiction writers is to “Make it up.” Using real-life for your stories can be boring (people already know the true story), libelous (someone could sue you for writing about them), or even didactic (people don’t like being lectured to).

If you want to write about real-life events or people, “Make it up.” Alter the premise of the story, switch the genders of the protagonists, select a different location, or change the outcome of the situation.

Keeping a Journal of Ideas is a common suggestion for writers. This journal is not a diary of what you had for lunch but what you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch that might trigger a memory or idea that could be developed. Filling your journal with descriptions of places you’ve visited, unusual names of people, or paraphrasing a conversation you’ve overheard could help you begin a story. Then the next time you find yourself staring at that blank white page, open up your Journal of Ideas and pick one.

What suggestions do you have to for dealing with the dreaded blank white page?


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    • Book Lover on June 19, 2015 at 3:47 pm
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    A lined notebook page does, indeed, seem less intimidating than a blank computer screen. Good idea.

    • Karen Kittrell on June 7, 2015 at 7:32 pm
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    I find a lined notebook page less intimidating than a blank computer screen. I might scrawl a rough draft in long hand first and then type it when I’m ready to revise the story. Antonya Nelson writes to begin with an event that happened to the writer. In the next revision the facts begin to change – characters, time periods, pont of view.

    • Sue Remisiewicz on June 7, 2015 at 6:39 pm
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    I like to keep a supply of homemade writing prompts handy. These are made up of one sentence. When I need a boost to start a story, I pick one of my prompts to use as the first sentence of a piece and go from there.

      • Book Lover on June 19, 2015 at 3:41 pm
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      Keeping one-sentence prompts handy is an excellent idea. I’ll start doing that too.

    • Claire Murray on June 7, 2015 at 8:07 am
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    Lots of good ideas! I’m going to remember them for the next time I get stuck!

      • Book Lover on June 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm
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      I’m pleased that you like the ideas suggested. I’ve had success with some of them.

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