When the Story Spark Ignites

Explosion of planet or starI finished outlining a new novel, while editing the novel I need to finish. I’m convinced my ability to multi-task projects is born from my wavering attention span, and being hyper about any new idea that crosses my mind. But this time it feels different, and my attention is unwavering.

I’m sure some or all of us (including myself) believe our unique story sparks will burst forth the next big book deal: an international book tour, signings in every city, a publisher with a marketing engine that never sleeps, and of course the movie premieres next week (sounds lovely). Whether that happens or not, the story and writing process has to start with a spark.

So you pull out your mind-flint and strike your metal pen against your gray matter to make a story spark. Most times the story is easy to create: a news article catches your attention, an idea presents itself, an unlikely experience happens to you. How ever the spark comes, you eventually find the story you want to write. You were seeking the story, and found it. But perhaps what you found doesn’t gel? The story matter doesn’t seem to flow, and you find yourself backfilling the plot with regurgitated story-stuff that buries you in nothing but burden. The three act structure has become the ten act flop. If the story has become a labour of love, then likely the passion to write it is just as labourious. The spark has died.

But not all stories are prone to snuff-out. There are stories that kindle, and the story spark ignites into a supernova of imagination. The story explodes in your head and writes itself. I like to think of it as finding love when you’re not looking for it. You know that feeling of surprise, awe and amazement when you find someone so wonderful. Love at first sight? There’s an energy in those moments, and although we try to put a finger on it, it’s not anything we can grasp; it’s wild and wants to be free. This type of story spark is something you can’t control. When that happens the story will write itself, twisting effortlessly around the plot like a helix: forming scenes, chapters and acts, seemingly at will. This story spark has a life of its own and ignites passion in the writer. It becomes a raging inferno, St. Elmo’s fire, crackling with characters, burning with emotion and radiating with meaningful elements. This story will speak to you. It knows how it wants to be written. It will have passion and purpose. This is the story that’s in you to write.

In my infinite wisdom (which really tries hard to break out of my skull) I found myself trying to simplify what I’m talking about in as few words as possible, and perhaps someone else has coined the quote, but here’s my two cents:

“The writer doesn’t find the story one yearns to write ~ rather ~ the story finds the writer and yearns to be written.”

I believe story sparks are alive in all of us, and the right one will burn brighter in your mind-sky than all of them. That’s your story, move toward it, fuel its fire, and bring it to life.

Darryl Foster

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