Where do stories come from? Stories from ideas

Typing is not the act of creating a story. It is only the means whereupon that story is shown. Story creation comes from the mind. It is an inventive imagination that springs from creative inspiration around the storyteller.

An old typewriter is clicking away in a dimly lit room, sounding down a carpeted hall inside a lonely studio. Its keys are methodically tapping as a professor – wearing a suit and suspender match that speaks “1930’s” – is sitting at a dark wooden desk. Shades over the window are slicing the sunbeams to filter dimly into the room, alighting in neat, organized lines over the desk. The professor’s eyes are not on his paper. They are dancing rhythmically around the room to the same pattern of the keys. Every now and then, he glances back to the paper scrolling upward with every line, checking his work before again wandering his eyes about the room.

Is the professor’s attention riveted to the room or to his work? A casual observer might say the former, but a writer will tell you that the professor is not thinking about the room or about the paper in front of him. He is thinking about ideas. . . .

Storytelling doesn’t come by someone sitting in front of a desk on a typewriter, computer screen, or pen and paper. It doesn’t come by staring at a flashing cursor as one thinks, “What can I write?” Storytelling first comes from ideas. Those ideas are then jotted down as they are organized and compiled in the mind. Most of the grind work of an author, when dubiously working at his creation, is spent in front of a writing instrument. However, it is not the writing instrument that gives him his ideas. The imagination of the storyteller comes from reference material – data that can come from nearly anywhere: Another story, a photo/painting, an experience, a place, a dream, a smell, even a wish or desire that you’ve had. A good storyteller will collect as much reference material as he/she can that gives direct cultural context to the story they write. The words should usually flow quickly across the pages. If they are not, it is not the fault of the writing instrument. (Writing instruments can cause their own problems if they become too much of a distraction – one reason why I rely a lot on pen/paper and voice recording before doing the grind work of typing/editing my works.) Writer’s block is simply your mind telling you that it is running out of ideas – or that those ideas need to be revitalized. An experienced writer will take a minute away from the desk – just a minute, mind you – and reconnect with the ideas/imaginations of his mind. He will look through reference material, think through a couple phrases, and return to a writing instrument to write those phrases down.

The professor opens his eyes and blinks back into focus. He looks over his paper to see a tangled knot of words typed over words. Snatching fast at another paper upon the table, he remarks that sometimes, his mind can become too lost in his ideas. The typewriter needed another paper several sentences ago!

So true!

Your fellow writer,

Joshua A. Reynolds, Proprietor

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is FreeResourcesButton-1024x576.png

Getting a story scene to pop

Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in learning more about the following story:

The year is 1892, and your Victorian overcoat is flapping behind you as you quicken your pace in the early spring air. It is the first hour of dawn. You have been up for two hours already, working in the dark, and the warm sunlight on the garden path around you is welcome after the chills of night. No one can see the papers you have hidden inside a black leather binder, tied up with string, and none could know the important intel you carry inside it. Within the formal gardens of the White House, you are on your way to a meeting with one of the president’s cabinet members.

Maybe you’re not a fan of historical fiction, but I still guess that some aspects of the last paragraph intrigued you. Why? Consider the fact that the story intro was extremely short and to the point. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of places for intrigue. In fact, I cheated a little, using second person instead of third person narrative. Since the intro is so short, third person sounded too aloof. I had to place you into the scene itself. The mystery became the place and plot into which I placed you. In a published book, novels are generally written in third person (sometimes in first, but never in second). The reader is already prepared to follow the main character. Here in this blog post, I had to use shorthand to prepare you for a story.

I surmise, though, that the use of the second personal pronoun “you” was not what made the story so interesting. If you like fiction, mystery, adventure, or history, my guess is that you would be at least mildly interested in learning more about the story. What drew you in?

To add mystery to a scene, you reveal the descriptions and information a little at a time. You don’t start with a wide lens that flattens the image and presents every detail with equal importance. Instead, you reveal a little of your canvas at a time, taking the reader through the same journey as your story character. Zoom into details while brushing past others. As a well crafted artwork will have leading lines that draw the viewer’s attention to a focal point, so your scene should do the same. Draw your reader to a main event, object, place, and person. Use the surrounding detail to support the focal point and carry your reader there. They will enjoy the experience.

Detail is more than just thinking through a story environment. Your story needs cultural context. The details have to match within the cultural setting. They cannot be incongruent. Notice how everything in the story intro spoke of Victorian society. The overcoat, the leather tied with string, the formal garden – one could picture Sherlock Holmes as the character, and if I made London instead of Washington, D.C. the location, everyone would know the character’s name and residence.

So, yes, you need to work more on your story intro than my quickly put-together blog story. Try writing several drafts of it. You will come to understand the cultural details and elements that need to be placed to lead your character to the focal point of your story’s scene. It will make the scene stand out and draw your reader into your story.

Your fellow writer,

Joshua A. Reynolds, Proprietor

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is FreeResourcesButton-1024x576.png

Book Trailer for A Manor House in Yarmouth

A year of silence (to the very day) has lapsed since writing here. Today, I had a phone meeting with a publishing house about my book A Manor House in Yarmouth. The caller said she had been going through my blog posts, and I told her that I hadn’t posted for about a year. . . .so, I thought afterward that I would check when I had last posted, and it has been a year to the day! Far too long! I assure you, my pen(s) have been continuing to write.

As my above paragraph alludes to, I am in the process of trying to publish A Manor House in Yarmouth (a title the caller said should be changed to The Manor House in Yarmouth – I took note of it but think that it wouldn’t be fair to all the other manor houses in Yarmouth to exault my story’s house above them 😉 ). One of the main advertising stunts I’ve completed for publishers and literary agents is a book trailer showcasing the book. I have it featured below. One minor note, I’m starting to work out my video editing software and lighting much better, and I plan to start using green screen soon to rid the rather foreboding black background that features me in the trailer.

Another minor note: I have completed another book after A Manor House in Yarmouth – my fourth book to be published, and I’m working on my fifth book also, set place in the fifteenth century! I’ll have to give other blog posts about these works. . .

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds


How to Edit Your Story Using Fillers


When I write a book, there are chapters that end up being shorter than what I need them to be. Usually, I write my first draft on pen and paper and transcribe it into a word processor. Pen and paper eliminates spending a whole day editing a few paragraphs around and not making more progress on your story (that’s something I call Editing Syndrome). It also eliminates the millions (okay, maybe just thousands) of distractions that come with a computer.

When I revise my story, I use a word processor – usually. There are times it is good to use real ink even when revising a story. If you realize that a chapter is too short or that you need to add a scene somewhere, going back to ink and paper is generally the best way to construct your scene.

I did this just today, and it worked!

The only steps you have to do is 1) plan where you are going to insert the new scene and edit the text accordingly for it. 2) Write the scene using pen and paper. 3) Transcribe it into the word processor where you are supposed to insert the text. 4) Read the new version and revise to make everything flow.

It’s really that simple. Try it for yourself.

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds


Latest from YouTube and Other Websites

In recent YouTube videos, I’ve been doing a series about using pen and paper. Check out the first video in the series:

My Treasure on the Southern Moor website latest post: https://treasureonthesouthernmoor.wordpress.com/2018/08/22/a-late-meal-aboard-ship/

My The Williams House website latest post: https://thewilliamshouse.wordpress.com/2018/08/22/autumn-time/

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds



The Top 10 Reasons Why Every Storyteller Should Write About Nature

  1. Nature is aesthetically pleasing.

It makes your story that much more alive. Rich descriptions of nature as the characters interact with it throughout the plot (whatever plot that is) are always a thrill to read and refreshes the reader.

  1. Nature is imaginable.

We are always interacting with and around nature, even when we do not realize it. When we read nature in a story, we can easily envision what is being described. This paints wonderful pictures in our heads and makes it easy for the author to convey into our minds the same images he/her envisioned.

  1. Nature draws a reader into a story.

Unless we can (as the main character of the story does) feel the texture of the tree, smell the pine needles, feel the rich soft grass and dirt, hear the babbling brook, listen to the birds and insects chirp, watch the setting sun shaft through the limbs of the trees, then we won’t be attracted to the story. When these descriptions are included, we will be drawn in to experience the story ourselves.

  1. Nature defines the scene.

How can you describe what a scene looks like, feels like, sounds like, smells like, and tastes like without any nature at all? The only way to describe an environment of a story is by using nature.

  1. Nature is very interactive.

It is easy for us to picture a main character walking his horse down a cobblestone path through the woods in the late afternoon because even though we might not have done so ourselves, we have felt stone before. We have walked through woods before. And, we have seen the late afternoon sun shaft through the limbs of a small forest.

  1. Nature is all around us.

Have you ever tried reading a story in an airport and then out in a park near a garden? Why is it you could visualize the story so much better in the park? Well, there could be thousands of reasons, everything from being nervous about your flight to the shouts and conversations of others in the airport. Yet, as nature draws us into the story, we generally find that we can understand it much better if we are around nature ourselves.

  1. Without nature, stories don’t make sense.

A story without nature is a story of confusion.

  1. Without nature, stories are dull.

If the characters never interact with nature, the story will not be imaginative.

  1. Without nature, stories cannot be visualized.

It’s impossible to truly be able see the paintings of the story without descriptions of nature.

  1. Without nature, your book will have all the negative reviews.

No one likes a story that doesn’t have nature described throughout it.

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds



How to Set Writing Priorities

Making certain to write every day can be a big challenge, yet if you’re not writing every day, then you are not a writer. You are a dabbler – writing on this day, writing on that, but not being consistent. In order to be a writer, you have to write every day. You have to make writing a habit.

As soon as I make writing a habit, I realize that inevitably there are other priorities that begin to raise their heads. How do I make sure I get my blog posts published? What about my YouTube writing videos or my podcasts or emails? Is there any way I can spend x hours doing the lawn work I have to do this week? Etc. Etc. Etc.

I’ve realized the following: There are certain weeks when marketing has a higher priority, and there are certain weeks when writing has a priority. Yet, I still have to be writing every day. There are just some times when the writing will not be as much as usual. Don’t do this randomly. Figure out when you have to make writing a priority. Below are some guidelines.

Make writing a priority when. . .

  1. You are writing a first draft to a story.

Never, never, never drag the first draft of a story out too long. If you have to, table everything else. Make certain you complete the first draft. Then, you’ll be done with the most discouraging part of the writing process.

  1. You are nearing the half-way point with a story revision.

After the first draft of a story is completed, it’s easy to spend some time focusing on other priorities. Then, you begin to revise your story, yet it still doesn’t have first dibs. Make certain that as you progress through the revision process, you are raising the writing priority until it is first on your list. Keep this up until it is complete and ready for publication.

  1. You are behind with the macro-goals of how much writing you wanted done by the end of the year/bi-yearly.

If you realize your long-term goals aren’t being met, then do the following: 1) Make writing more of a habit, 2) Make writing more of a priority, and 3) (if you are already doing the prior steps as much as humanly possibly) Make your goals more realistic.

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds



The Amazing Secrets of Storytelling

Now that I have your attention by my motivating headline, you probably think that I’m either a genius or a quack. The truth is neither. The amazing secrets of storytelling are something that’s common sense; the trouble is that so few people are taught common sense these days. I can give you the secrets in three simple words.

Imagination. Inspiration. Wholesomeness.

Imagination refers to your ability to give your reader through words the same visions and images you have inside your head. Drawing a reader into your story takes imagination – the right descriptions, composition of scenes, environments, and proper portrayals of characters.

Inspiration refers to everything you need to gather in order to have imagination. I call this “reference material”. The truth is that no writer is 100% original, or even 50% original. We acquire our ideas from our interactions with the real world: Places we go to, people we visit, paintings/pictures we observe, other stories we read, stories we are told verbally, smells and tastes, etc.

Wholesomeness refers to the level of simple virtues placed within a story. If your story never talks about food or nature or sleep/rest or water or trees or rocks or characters who appreciate such things, then your story will not be a good one.

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds


The Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Stop Watching TV and Start Reading

I doubt whether anyone at the end of his/her life has said, “Oh, if only I had watched one more hour of television – my life would have been complete.” Yet, reading produces far greater rewards for your life.

  1. Television is heavily liberalized and one-sided.

Let’s face it: Most television is junk. In today’s modern world, generally only one political side controls all the major television political news. Not only politics is affected by this subjectivity. Most channels are created to present people with very few morals and depressing stories – both fiction and non-fiction. Areas with higher television viewing have higher depression rates.

  1. Reading produces better intelligence.

Yes, this depends on what you read, true. Yet, even the simple act of reading will give you more rewards than watching television for that same amount of time. It requires more concentration and allows you to think in a quieter setting.

  1. Television produces unintelligence.

When most fictional television stories revolve around things that do not and cannot exist and most non-fiction stories are presenting false facts, the viewer is only being fed unintelligence.

  1. Reading gives better imaginative rewards.

The creative rewards are far greater with reading because you have to envision the story yourself instead of having it all passively spoon-fed to you through a screen. You actively participate with the story instead of watching it from a distance.

  1. Television commercials are only getting worse and influence you to spend more money

Most commercials are fake. They are designed by computer graphics artists that change the appearance of whatever the company is trying to sell, and the entire point of most of them is that your life is incomplete without their product, which isn’t true.

Your fellow writer,
Joshua Reynolds