My youngest asked this of me recently. I was stumped. My stories don’t leap fully formed from my mind; little pieces of them come together over time. When they’re solid enough I sit down and start to write. I tried to explain this to the kid, that stories need time to grow, but he wasn’t satisfied with that answer. So I’ve been thinking about it, trying to figure it out.
My most recently published short story started as a challenge to myself. I have a tendency to rely too heavily on dialogue in my stories. Sometimes my early drafts look more like a screenplay than a novel or a short story, so I tried to write without one of my usual crutches. I also challenged myself to write a story that could be interpreted in two different ways, depending on the whim of the reader. So, Staycation, published this month in Underground Voices is entirely without dialogue. Is it a story about the supernatural? Well, that’s up to you to decide. You can read it here.
But, when I thought about it more, I realized this story had a conception even older than the challenges I set myself. Years ago, before I was writing, me and my husband went to look at a house that was for sale. It was an old farmhouse, set in two hundred overgrown acres. It sat on top of a hill, overlooking hollows and valleys, with the hills rising endlessly in the distance. It’s roof was scarred with half a dozen lightning conductors, and the house – well, it buzzed – a vibrating, discernible noise that freaked me the hell out. Flies. There must have been millions of them trapped in that old house. They covered the windows, black and frantic *shudder*
Despite the views, the acreage and the price, I could never have lived in that house. But, years later, I decided that one of my characters would. So this story was born before I was even a writer. That house stayed in my imagination, waiting, waiting. As trapped as those flies, as strong a conductor as the lightning rods on the roof. This particular story was born on top of a hill in upstate New York, sitting on a boulder, staring at a roof and listening to the buzzing of a plague of flies. Then it waited until I was able to write it.
What about you? Any story conception tales to share?