Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How Ideas Grow

"Hail in the Flower Garden" by pcaputo
Hail has always fascinated me. Instead of falling straight from the clouds like rain, snow, or sleet, hail goes through a  growth process. It's carried back up into the atmosphere multiple times, where it collects extra layers of ice. Each time it ascends, it comes back down with another layer. Eventually, it becomes heavy enough that it falls to the ground. If you slice open a hailstone, you can see all the layers of ice, like rings in a tree trunk, chronicling the stone's journey.

The journey of a story idea, for me, is similar. Ideas come to me in a fairly simplistic form--a character or a basic plot, for example. Then they go away for a while to knock around my subconscious. When they come back, they've collected a few more layers--more characters, or relationships, or subplots. A scene. A few lines of dialogue. At some point, these are enough layers that the idea accumulates the weight it needs to become a full-fledged story.

The amount of time it takes for this process to complete varies from project to project. But there's always a point where I just know the story is ready to go.

For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to discuss the origins and growth of some new releases I either have out or that are coming up. The stories I'd like to discuss had different incubation periods, and grew in very different ways.

What process do your stories usually go through before you commit them to paper? Please share in the comments.