It is hard to believe or even think that people will be interested in what I might have to say about writing. It is such a private and lonesome activity. I will give it my best shot.
I have discovered and used a few different approaches to creating stories. Most recently, stories come to me as dictation. I wake up sometime after midnight and a story is aloud inside my head. I listen for a while and if it sounds like the story has legs, I begin writing down what I hear. For sure, if I do not do this, the story is lost forever. There was one about Michael Jordan that might have worked, though I thought not, and it is gone.
The story dictation usually goes on for three or four nights, which is sort of a pain in the rear end, but I have been very happy with the results, and it is entertaining to find out what happens next! I had not been actively engaged in writing fiction for about 15 years; it is entirely possible that the creative impetus has been building up during that time and now appears in this form. At any rate, what I have been doing during those years is writing scripts for WWII documentaries, so I have been writing, editing, researching, piecing together, and finally producing an entity that, at least sometimes, has a beginning, middle, and end. But something entirely different from a short story or novel, especially in the energy tapped to create it—the one has nothing to do with the other. Which is why I have retired from WWII.
Other than the voices that give me stories, the system I have used more than any other is that of living a story and writing it down almost as it happens. I would grow very sensitive to what was going on around and within me, and I could tell that "this is a story" going on. This awareness allowed me to massage the actuality into what appeared to be fiction; my diary is where this shaping takes place. I understand that there might even be a name for this kind of writing today. Is it called auto something? The diary is where the primary massage is applied; then a very important part of the creative process is the entering the notes into the computer. The subsequent writing, editing, changing, amplifying and cutting is the usual stuff. It is an interesting experience to be walking about inside a story as it develops around you. This kind of story does not engage memory, but it puts great demands on the imagination and editorial/critical capabilities as it notices everything and everybody and plans their places in the story.
Other than voices and diary or journal, for me there has been a somewhat traditional method: plain old writing from imagination and experience. And I believe that this is what is used by anyone reading these words. I can only say that once you get started on any of these forms of making a story, you get locked into it. People might not realize that writing these stories is very hard work. Most of the sweat is spent in finding your voice. If you are writing a series of linked stories, once you have found your voice you are off and running, and can maintain that voice for the whole series. In some of my linked stories I have added to my woes by changing the narrator from one story to another. But if you are not well within the world of your story, if the characters are not palpably real to you, if you do not feel the feelings, well, good luck. I repeat: this is hard work.
This is the reason that for 30 years while running a business in southern California, I could not for the life of me write a story. I tried twice. Total failure. I hope you do not know the despair that assails you upon staring down at a few sheets of dead paper, a moribund, failed story lying there, and nothing you can do about it, no way to resurrect it.
Everything I have come to understand and know about me and life is drawn upon to make a story. Memory, imagination, feelings, belief system, spiritual and physical life, books one has read, family, friends and enemies, tragedies experienced, beautiful experiences, well
the whole lot. Everything goes into writing a story, at least a story that "has legs." And the richer your life, the richer your stories. Thank you for reading.