I did not grow up in a house filled with stories. I did not sit around the dinner table being astounded by tales of familial adventures or mis-adventures. For many years I wished that I had. I envied other writers who seemed to have such a treasure-trove of interesting stories to rummage through when creating their novels. I felt that I had a bit of an arid history. But, then, of course, I realized that wasn’t true at all.
In the absence of stories gifted to me through passed down verbal lore, I was forced to allow the observances of life to congregate upon my page. And congregate they did. It amazed me how one small detail, of no real particular interest in and of itself, could flourish into a riveting story. As if the detail was merely an innocuous door the imagination steps through in order to access the world in behind.
I didn’t realize quite how adroit my mind had become at picking out details from my surroundings and stepping through into a story, until my daughters pointed it out to me one day. I had been out dancing the night before, and was regaling them with some story about one of the men I’d been covertly observing all night. Now, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t watching him because I was interested in him. I just found him interesting. He was a very methodical, accomplished dancer. Great care had gone into the selection of his evening attire. Obviously, he loved to dance and did so nearly every song, going around the room asking various ladies onto the floor to join him. But, what interested me was that although he loved to dance, he really had no one to dance with. He arrived alone, sat alone, and left alone. Curious.
So, without my even realizing I was doing it, I began to create his story. All the reasons as to why he was alone arose in my mind. Was he happy, sad, a widower, or a pervert in planning stage? The possibilities were endless. And it wasn’t until my daughters pointed it out to me, that I realized I had stepped through the observance of his aloneness, into the creation of a story in an attempt to explain it.
And that ability, which we all possess, to create something beyond the smallest detail, is the point where all stories begin. Truly, no one has an arid history. Every day provides us with countless entry points into the what-ifs of life. We simply have to be willing to wake-up and become keen observers.