Speaking to the Monmouth Writers on Saturday, our discussion moved for some time to the topic of story ideas and where they come from. There are some who will tell you that all of fiction can be boiled down to one of seven basic plots and they may, in fact, be right. But it is also true that there is an infinite array of stories waiting to be told. The universe fairly teems with story ideas.
But you have to go out and look for them. You can’t tell a good story if you don’t live your life. One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from Stephen Kuusisto, in his essay Blow it Up (in Rules of Thumb: 73 writers reveal their fiction writing fixations, by Martone and Neville).
“Sneaking into an adjacent state and exploding the occasional outhouse won’t make you a better writer, but it is true that life lived adventurously will yield unexpected joys or exotic failures.”
I have been exploding outhouses, as it were, for most of my adult life, sometimes in search of a story, and sometimes just for fun. The story ideas don’t always work out. I never did write that roller-derby mystery.
At least, not yet.