… and how to get a thousand posts from a single moment.
Everyone likes to be liked and nobody likes to be liked more than me. I look at other writers’ blogs and sometimes see “likes” moving into their 100s and I’m so envious of them! I can only dream of being so popular! I am pleased, however, that my recent “Sleeper Trilogy” seems to have earned me more likes than usual. I think it’s interesting though how that trilogy came about, so I wanted to post something about the art of creating story (for those who’d “like” to know).
I was in London to give a talk about the art of storytelling, when during a break a friend of mine found an earring on the floor. “There’s a story in that,” he said. So I got to thinking about it, asking myself questions: To whom did the earring belong? How did they lose it? Why did they lose it? What state of mind were they in at the time? Panic? Anger? What was going on their life right then?
And it was this final question that really gave me the germ of an idea for “The Sleeper on the Train.” I asked, what if it’s found by a man on his uppers, who thinks at first it’s made of gold and he could maybe pawn it? And then what if he meets an attractive woman whom he notices is missing an earring? Could it be hers? Could it really be possible for this huge coincidence to happen? Well of course it could so why not run with it? So how does he return it to her? And what would happen once he’d made that initial contact with the woman? And what about the woman? Why did she lose an earring, if indeed she really had?
So as I explored these questions the idea grew into something much more than a lost item of jewellery. The man was a writer and he noticed she was reading his book – again a coincidence and this time real! Could he exploit this to get to know the woman? Who was she? What was going on in her life? She was dressed smartly, probably happily married yet unfulfilled, possibly “new money”, expensive tastes but no stranger to bling… More importantly how does she feel about the man? She finds him kind of cute but while there is no hint of an affair right then, I could examine her life, explore her feelings, and weave a story from when she later has an epiphany.
I recall an exercise from my journalistic training whereby I can receive nine cheques from a single story. It was about a road traffic accident where the victims of the crash were from various parts of the country, so in writing up the report I could sell it to local papers from those regions hence widening my earning potential. But what if there was more to the accident than at first met the eye? One of the drivers might’ve been drunk, for example, or driving without a licence, which means the issue of culpability comes into play, and future lawsuits. And what if the police later realise there’s a dead body in the boot of one of the cars…. And so on; the possibilities are endless and the earning potential could be far greater than nine cheques.
So it was this lateral thinking that gave me a bigger project than a simple tale about someone losing an earring, and from one small event that on the surface meant very little I created at least three posts that could possibly afford me even more. And why not, so long as the reader tells me they keep wanting more? Why it might even become a novel, and hopefully a novel that people will “like”!