How to Start A Story

How To Start A Story

So here we are, just a bunch of storytellers, or maybe some of you are simply looking for a good story to lose yourself in. Whatever your medium, it makes no difference; whether you write stories or scripts, direct, photograph, compose music; or my personal favorite, adapt all the above into one finished product aka making a film, it’s all centered around the same thing—the creative process.

Writing a story once its plot and characters have been established seems almost second nature, but coming up with the initial story—the idea—that’s the hardest part for most people. Inspiration doesn’t always strike you when you want it to, and just like lightning—it never hits you in the same place twice.

You can sit down at your desk, playing the very best of your iTunes library and . . . nothing. You could have all the time in the world, you say, “I’m ready, Inspiration, come to me!” and alas . . . nothing.

Hey, Inspiration, I’m still here, still waiting. C’mon already! you practically scream . . . silence. I think I hear crickets. “This is ridiculous,” you say aloud, voicing your frustration.

Two hours later, and all you’ve managed to do was update your Facebook status once, twice, maybe even three times! Gosh, I’m pathetic, you think to yourself.

No, no, you’re not. Stop thinking like that. The truth is all of us go through this no matter how long you’ve been hashing out ideas.

A Flighty Bird
Inspiration barely ever comes when it’s convenient. I know for me, it comes when I’m trying to sleep or do something else—a random project around the house, maybe; or when I’m at work. It usually comes when I have my hands full and can’t drop what I’m doing. It’s kind of like a lucid dream, the most vivid ones you have early in the morning, right before you wake up. If you don’t immediately try to remember it, tell it to someone, or write it down within a few minutes, it exponentially becomes harder and harder to recall with every second that elapses.

And so, having let too many spur the moment great ideas be whisked away with the wind, I’ve gotten in the good habit of always  keeping a pen and paper handy. This way, when the time comes, I’m ready for it, and I can hopefully revisit it for further development at my leisure.

So let’s skip ahead a bit. You have the idea now. It came to you when you were in the shower, or maybe while you were on the toilet (c’mon, let’s be honest). It’s a good idea, but it’s brief—nothing but a rude snapshot. In your head, it’s revolutionary—the best, most original idea that has ever been conceived . . . But honestly, is it really? Probably not. It’s true. We all think our ideas are the great exception; that because we’re artistes, simply spitting it out to the world will result in glory because we were true to our own self-expression.  Wrong!

In reality, if you were to share that crude image that you see in your mind’s eye with the public, 99% of the time it would most likely be just about as expressive as vomiting in public, which is definitely “expressive.”

Real artists take time; they dedicate lots of it too. They hone their craft, refine it; and most importantly, they are always seeking critique to better their future work or their work in production. Invest enough time and energy, and eventually something of worth and strength and meaning emerges. At least, that’s the concept behind the creative process.

Back to plotting . . . A tiny, high-pitched voice is heard:

“Gee, Brain, what do you wanna do tonight?”
“Same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world!”

So this snapshot of yours, it could be anything. You envision a spaceship floating by the crystalline rings of a gas giant, or maybe something more down-to-earth: A kid with baggy jeans, walking down the street to the rhythm of whatever hip song is playing on his MP3 player, when in reality, he’s actually listening to Beethoven’s ninth. You would never guess that from his appearance. It makes no difference. They’re all snapshots. All good stories are spawned from dreams, visions, nightmares; or more often than not, snapshots like these.

Catch The Bird
Good, you have it! Now, write it down so you don’t forget it. Have a pen and paper ready at all times, next to your bed, out in your living room, or simply keep the Notepad app open on your computer—it’s brainstorm irrigation. Jot down the initial idea, ponder it for a while, then, let it breathe. Return to it later.

What’s next? Well, they say every picture is worth a thousand words . . . or maybe just more pictures—et voila! The birth of movies. The point is, it’s always worth extrapolating on and coming up with some purpose to lend it meaning—whatever your idea is, it can always be better.

Be ready to capture the idea when it comes, and once you’ve accomplished that, don’t stop there, be prepared to evaluate it, testing it for weak points and considering possible solutions for strengthening it. As you prepare to do this, always remember the original idea you came up with. It should be the thesis for everything that follows.

Be ready. It’s gonna be a long haul, but try to enjoy it! It’s your passion, remember?

4 thoughts on “How To Start A Story”

  1. whats the possibility you guys can write an article about budgeting and preproduction, because I really suck at that kind of stuff haha.

  2. @Gunner, I would ask your questions under the “Pre-production” forum topic and see what percolates. Both O’Ryan and I will share our own advice/experience there. If it’s nested under the forums then you’ll get everyone’s say, not just ours. So ask away, my friend!

  3. Another great blog post Andy. Personally, I can never write as fast as I can type or talk, so I tend to forgo the notepad in favor of a google docs file and my voice recorder (if I’m on the go). Same idea really– strike while the iron’s hot!

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