Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The seeds that grow a story

I remember one day I was sitting in the lunch room at work, and a few other co-workers were eating and talking. I don't know how the conversation got there, but Paul told us that after he graduated from college, he and his best friend flipped a coin to decide where they'd move to live and look for work. Heads Seattle, WA or Tails Somewhere, WI. It was heads, so they moved to Seattle, got an apartment together, and both found work. He eventually met the woman who would become his wife, they moved to Portland where she had family, and so... there it was. His life, all a result of that coin toss.

I told myself I had to use that in a book someday. So, when I was writing THE DAY BEFORE, I thought - I want to put a coin toss in here. I didn't know why. I didn't know how it would work. I just knew it was one detail I wanted to use.

That is how it works for me. I don't necessarily know how things will come together when I plant seeds into my story like that. I just have something in mind I want to use (usually a few somethings - what are those called anyway?), and then I write and see how they grow. See how things play out.

In the end, the coin toss didn't necessarily mean a BIG decision was made, like it was for Paul. It actually became much more for my main character. In the process of tossing a coin throughout the day, she eventually has a realization that's really key for her. An "ah-ha" moment, if you will.

Sometimes I think I should be more intentional about the details I put into my books. Except, I sort of love the excitement and mystery and eventually, the joy of discovery of how the details come to work together to add meaning to the story. It makes it SO fun!

As I've said before, when it all comes together and works, it's like... magic.

I'm curious. Are you intentional about what little elements or details or whatever they're called that you put into your story? Or are you more like me - throw things in and then see how they play out?


  1. Definitely throw things in and then see how they play out.

    The story surprise me :)

  2. Often I'm surprised by how the little things I didn't even realize I was planting at the time, all come together meaningfully at the end.

    That's why I don't do heavy outlining, I'm afraid it would ruin the surprises.

  3. I've done both. The ones with some forethought as to how they would fit in the general plot have worked better.

  4. Grr! your making me want to buy this book...I was only planing on buying one (Forever by Maggie Strivater) but now...*sigh* Awesome I don't know

    I have a question I'm unsure if I should post mini chapter stories based on what's going on in my life on my blog if it would be to personal or not

    I want to type thats where that concept comes from and I want to type but when I type in word I normally never finish the story but I figured if its on a blog I might finish or come close...or something

  5. I'm definitely like you. I throw things in, or sometimes they seem to throw themselves in and I just go for it!

  6. Yay for little surprises!! :)

    Kate - you have to decide for yourself if you want to post stories on your blog. Personally, I wouldn't, but maybe it's fun for you and helps you get some good writing practice in. You have to do what feels right to you!! :)

  7. "Magic" is a good way to describe your books! I am glad that you write using the process that you do because it is obviously working.

    My students are still loving your books. I was just talking to 8th graders about how you have a new book coming out in June that I pre-ordered. They are sad that it will already be summer and they will be moving on to the high school for the new school year. They will be watching for it in book stores though.

  8. That's how stories come to me! Whenever I read a news article or hear a story from one of my friends. It's that tiny spark that can ignite an amazing story plot. I totally look forward to reading "The Day Before."