Friday, January 27, 2012

Beginning a Story

How does one begin a story? Not the opening paragraphs but the concept, the idea, the situation?

I am doing this now. I owe a story to a theme anthology, and all I have is the theme given to me by the editor (interstellar flight, done realistically). So far, these are the steps I've taken:

  • Find information about proposed interstellar craft. It turns out a whole raft of scientists have workable ideas on this (no STAR TREK dilithium crystals). The editor sent me some articles. Some I got from the Internet. That led me to order the book ENTERING SPACE (Robert Zubin), which arrived yesterday and constitutes today's reading. Do I usually do this much research for a short story? No. But I really want to be in this anthology, and anyway the topic interests me.
  • Read the material and mark up everything. Underlining for facts, notes in the margin for possible story ideas. This morning I waded through a technical article on lighting for agriculture aboard a long-term ship. Fortunately, I don't need to understand all the math.
  • If any ideas strike a genuine spark, stop research, write it down, and continue research in light of that idea. So far, this has not happened.
  • Go through a file I keep of interesting character sketches to see if any of them seem to mesh with my notes-for-an-idea-that-isn't-really-there-yet. Nope, nothing strikes me.

That's as far as I've gotten in the process. Let's hope a few more days produces a usable story idea. It has in the past, so I'm optimistic. They key criterion: I must be excited about the idea. Stay tuned.


Ellen said...

Thanks, Nancy, for letting us see inside your head. Since I read almost all your stories, I find it interesting to see how it came to be.

TheOFloinn said...

But the math is the fun part!

Nancy Kress said...

For YOU, Mike! I may call upon you for yet more help!

Dave Creek said...

To me, the most basic choice in such stories is -- generation ship or cold sleep, or a combination. It's difficult to avoid all the cliches associated with either choice, though I'm sure you'll surprise us, as usual!

Mary said...

I agree with Ellen! I love looking into the workings of other, more advanced writers' processes. I'm looking forward to reading more on this! Thanks!