Extrapolating Ideas to Develop a Story

As a young, naive would-be writer (read: about a year ago) I believed that a story came from one place or one idea. In other words, it came to a writer whole, and he or she only had to write it down. I didn’t think the job of a writer was easy, or merely as a scribe. I just fully believed their minds were full of brilliant ideas and inspiration in one piece.

I believed that when a fit of inspiration struck, the entire story would be lodged in my brain. And I wondered, what am I supposed to do with these tiny, odd sparks that seem to shoot out of some unknown place in my mind? How do I train my brain to give me a complete story?

I’ve learned that’s not the case. I’ve learned that little fit of inspiration needs to be extrapolated and developed into a greater story. That I need to train my mind to take that scrap and think about how it can be molded into a story. All those scribbled lines of images, scenes, characters and insightful thought need to be considered and molded into a story. It doens’t come all at once (or at least not for most people).

This is where outlining or using the snowflake method can come in handy. Some people can just start writing, but I’ve noticed that my main tendency is to just give up when I’m stuck, when I’ve transcribed that brief insight. And then I never return to it.

Digging through my old notebooks is always a treat. Some of my insightful ideas are downright embarrassing, but some of them seem to hold some shred of promise. Some little scrap of something that could become a story.


…sort of. I’m here, thinking about what to write. I’m formulating a couple story ideas for Paper Dart’s 800-word short story contest. Yeah, that’s right only 800 words.That should be really easy, right? It seems like it, until you consider how difficult it is to tell a story in 800 words.

Whenever I think of flash fiction, I think back to Raymond Carver’s grim and gruesome, horror piece “Popular Mechanics.” Those who’ve taken a creative writing class that included writing short stories in the curriculum has probably read this piece and admired it for its brevity but disliked it for its unsettling story. It is inspiring, but reading through it once again was enough for awhile. I think I’m fully informed on telling a brief story.

Well, I should be back to the drawing board to fully formulate my winning flash fiction ideas.