Mary Flannery O’Connor said at one point that she didn’t know the ending of her short story, “Good Country People” until about twelve lines before she wrote it. This is a learned secret from the circle of great writers, and its one that many of us embrace.
Stephen King, too, utilizes this method of telling a story, but his description is much more amusing. This is paraphrasing, I’m sure, but, imagine you are in a desert, and you come across a buried fossil of a time long ago – something amazing, it has to be! You know that it is delicate. You know that it has to be treated with great care and responsibility. If you were digging up this fossil, you wouldn’t use a shovel. A cautious, passionate archaeologist would use a toothbrush to make sure even the most intimate detail was not lost. Such is the case with writing, in the mind of Stephen King. You are the archaeologist, and the fossil is whatever story you’re trying to tell.
Now, this goes beyond the idea of caution and level of detail. In fact, I dare say it may reverse that idea of caution and detail. The concept of the writer is one who writes. They craft a story from scratch, in the minds of many. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Any great storyteller knows this. The story has always been there, and we are merely the translators. That fossil in the desert was always there, ready to be discovered, and we are the ones who must learn its intricate mysteries.
Me, I’m a bit beyond the archaeologist up there. I’m not saying this is better or worse – it’s just an observation. You see, I’m a bit of a historian too. When I develop my stories, I tell them twice. Once to myself, and once to the reader. But here’s the kicker. I’m in that “reader” bucket too. Whenever I’m writing, I’m writing as the archaeologist. Even if I have the story told to myself in my head. I write to surprise myself, and I write subconsciously more often than not. If you have managed to read either of my first two books, and you’ve noticed something that deliciously came full circle, I didn’t do that. But my crazy mind did. I may have applied a little bit of finesse to intertwine the bits of storyline that was frayed, but something beyond what I purposely seek out helped to do that. In a way, I’m reading my story for the first time when I finally put it down to paper.
This was all a very long-winded point to make to say that I just had one of those little moments of inspiration. Best of all, it facilitates a greater storyline in the future, and one that hadn’t quite found its flesh yet. Like O’Connor, I hadn’t known it was there until just before I reached that pivotal moment. But it was there – it always was.
What have been some of your “aha moments”?
Check out my eBooks on amazon. This is the link to the first one, “The Bindings of Fate”: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052TSJQ6