by Eva Marie Everson
Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and wondered where the writer came up with such a story? I do. The more complex the story, the more I marvel. Or, the more historically accurate, the more I’m fascinated.
I’m not a master storyteller, but throughout my life, stories run in and out of my head. I can hardly see or hear something without thinking of the tale behind it.
Recently, I was in an airport making my way back home. I’d taken out my journal and pen, started to write a few thoughts and ideas amongst the lines. I stopped long enough to take a sip of my latte when my eye caught sight of a couple standing near the gate. They were holding hands and each other close. There was an sad familiarity between them. I stopped writing my thoughts and started writing their story.
They were married, I decided, but not to each other. They’d run away from real life for a week and were now about to return to their homes, their spouses, their respective children. But why, I wondered, had they dared do something so dangerous to the security of day-to-day? What was happening at home that drove them together … and away from it all? What forced them to return?
I never did anything with the story, but it was a fun exercise.
Old Photographs and Living Libraries
I love looking at old photographs, especially if someone in the photo is now sitting next to me. I ask about the background not just the foreground. Sometimes what is happening behind the scenes is more story-worthy than what is in the foreground.
I recently found an old photograph of my mother, taken in the early 60s. She is sitting in one of those nylon-weave folding lawn chairs. She is beautiful. Relaxed. In the background, children are at play. I am among those few children, myself and about six others. As soon as I saw the picture, I remembered how the neighborhood mothers used to sit and chat while we kids played. Memories and stories flooded my mind. Not enough for a book … but enough for substory. I’m not sure if or when I’ll use it, but I framed the photo and put it on my desk.
Story and Living Libraries
My mother is no longer alive to ask about that photograph, but when she was, we used to look at old snapshots and talk about everything and everyone in them. Each life tells a story.
Recently a friend told me about an older friend of hers who she wanted me to meet. Then she said, “You just have to hear her story!” Well, I’ve heard that line before, but I was willing to listen. I’m so glad I did! This lady told me one of the most fascinating sagas I’d ever heard! After our time together, I immediately called my agent and my editor. Stay tuned …
Dear Abby and the News
The news is depressing at best but Dear Abby is entertaining! Sometimes you can merge the two and come up with quite the story. One particular Dear Abby (which I clipped and saved) still makes me laugh; it’s a story of mistaken identity. What the readers may have seen as an “oh my goodness!” moment, I saw as romantic comedy. Later, I heard a news story and thought how the two-the DA letter and the news story-if blended, made a fascinating plot line.
Stories are everywhere! And typically we have enough running around in our brains to keep us writing for a lifetime. But to really develop a story readers will be amazed by, full of twists and turns and unexpected moments, take a leap and look into the most unlikely source: real life.
Eva Marie Everson is an award-winning writer of both fiction and nonfiction. Her Cedar Key series with Baker/Revell began in 2011 with Chasing Sunsets and will continue in 2012 with Waiting for Sunrise. She is a mentor with Christian Writers Guild and the executive co-chairman of CWG’s Word Weavers national and international critique groups.