Write on Wednesday-Branching Out

"Tell me a story!" How often have you heard that from your children, your grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or even your students, if you happen to be an elementary school teacher. I think all children love stories, the more outlandish and unbelievable the better. Story telling has been around since the beginning of time. Those famous cave paintings - weren't they probably the first "graphic novel"? Stories provide us with entertainment, sure, but they also shed meaning into our lives, helping us answer some of those eternal questions about the whys and wherefores of our existence.

I've never outgrown my love of stories, and I always make time for reading them, no matter how crazy my schedule is. Fiction ~the marvelous stories of other people's lives, loves, and adventures~is my passion. A well crafted novel is better to me than the richest chocolate or the finest wine (although I'm certainly not averse to enjoying any combination of all three!)

Until very recently, I've never tried writing any fiction. I've always considered myself a non-fiction writer- I like having a set subject, based on fact, research, or opinion, that I can write about or perhaps shed a new light on.

Lately, though, I've been branching out into the realm of make believe in my writing, trying my hand at some short fiction based on prompts from Sunday Scribblings and other writing sites. I've purchased the Gotham Writers Workshop Practical Guide to Fiction Writing, and I'm working my way through articles and exercises on generating ideas and developing character and plot. I'm learning to observe people and events in different ways, looking for the extra edge or touch of whimsy in characters and events that could develop into a story. Sometimes even a fragment of conversation can set a story idea in motion.

It's a little nerve wracking, this business of making people and events up from thin air. But it's also exciting to try on new writing styles and formats, kind of like playing dress up as a kid. Sometimes, I get going on a roll with an idea, or a character pops into my head from out of nowhere, begging for a story. I start writing things down, and before I know it, I'm out of control, typing crazily almost as if possessed, with my poor unsuspecting character careening down some dark and unknown pathway.

That's one of great things about the practice of writing. With only word play and my imagination, I can create entire worlds, peopled with all sorts of interesting characters working their way through life. In the process of leading them on their journey, I inevitably learn something new about myself as well.

So, how about you? Are you branching out, in your writing life, or elsewhere?