Planting a Story: How to Grow a Plot from a Single Seed


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Author Stephen Graham Jones has said that many of his story ideas stem from misheard conversations. This session will explore the process of building an entire story from practically nothing, with special consideration given to dismantling the sham known as writer’s block.

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  • Planting a Story: How to Grow a Plot from a Single Seed

    1. 1. Planting a Story How to Grow a Story from a Single 1
    2. 2. What Makes a Seed?• Write What You Know. Write What Interests You.• The Story Web – Reverse Engineering to build a story 1. Visceral Images 2. Meshing Concepts 3. Recognizing your story breadcrumbs• Writer’s Block 2
    3. 3. Write What… “Write what you know” is a compelling statement, but is often misinterpreted. Write • what interests you • what confuses you • what you are excited about • your hobbies • your own expertise • your passionsNo matter how small your interests may be, they areworth exploring for the sake of story. 3
    4. 4. The Story Web 4
    5. 5. The Story Web A story, before it’s a story, begins with a visceral reaction. This is the Story Seed.Story • • an interesting image a clever sentenceSeed • • a misheard quote a twist of phrase Then Ask Questions 5
    6. 6. What • What is the relevancy of the seed? What • What is the history of the seed? • What is the seed made of?Why Who • What power does the seed have? Story • What would happen should the seed disappear? Seed • What color is the seed? • What draw does the seedHow Where have to the people around it? When 6
    7. 7. Who • Who has interacted with the seed? What • Who created the seed? • Who wants the seed? • Who has the most to looseWhy Who should something happen to the seed? Story • Who cares about the seed? Seed • Who sees the seed? • Who distrusts the seed?How Where When 7
    8. 8. Where • Was the seed born/seen/did it originate? What • Where is the seed now? • Where will the seed end up? • Where are the people whoWhy Who created the seed? • Where are the people who Story care about the seed? Seed • Where is everyone else in context to the seed?How Where When 8
    9. 9. When • When did the seed come into play? What • When did people begin caring about the seed? • When will people stop caringWhy Who about the seed? • When is the seed most Story vulnerable? • When is the seed important? Seed • When will the seed end?How Where When 9
    10. 10. How • How did the seed happen/come into existence? What • How does the seed affect those around it/those who participated?Why Who • How does the seed appear to everyone else? Story • How will the characters in the story continue should the Seed seed cease to be?How Where When 10
    11. 11. Why WhatWhy Who Why is the seed important? Story SeedHow Where When 11
    12. 12. MeshingConcepts 12
    13. 13. Meshing Concepts Start with Two Story SeedsStory • Force these elements toSeed co-exist • Inherent tension when objects are forced to share a story • “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson • “The Blue Bouquet” by Octavio Paz Story Seed 13
    14. 14. Breadcrumbs 14
    15. 15. Recognizing BreadcrumbsApproach every word you put down as its own Story Seed. Each lineprovides guidance for the next. You simply have to recognize it. Besides the neutral expression that she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reverse, that she used for all her human dealings. Who is Mrs. Freeman? What history does she have to warrant such apparent distain? What other expressions does she have? Her forward expression was steady and driving like the advance of a heavy truck. Her eyes never swerved to left or right but turned as the story turned as if they followed a yellow line down the center of it. How often does she use these expressions? She seldom used the other expression because it was not often necessary for her to retract a statement, but when she did, her face came to a complete stop 15
    16. 16. Good Country PeopleApplying the concepts 16
    17. 17. How “Good Country People” could have been conceived• Seed: The Wooden Leg• What happens to the leg: it gets What stolen• Who has the leg: an attractive Why Who and intelligent young woman (tension)• Where does the leg come into play: barn, country setting. How Where• When is the leg important: when it becomes the central When interest of a thieving bible salesman• How is the leg perceived by the characters: a point of confusion/tension 17
    18. 18. Writers Block Broken Stories 18
    19. 19. Writers Block is Just and Excuse for Broken Storytelling 1. Accept thatWhy What something is broken. Story Who Seed 2. Hunt for what’s broken.How Where 3. Fix what’s broken When 19
    20. 20. Writers Block is Just and Excuse for Broken StorytellingAnalyze your story so far.• Be meticulous.• Explore character motivations, especially via dialog.• What are your characters really saying?Examine the story so far objectively.• If you were a reader, what would you want to see happen next? 20
    21. 21. Breadcrumbs to Fix a Story “Jill swallowed another pill from the collection of unmarked bottles in her freezer.”Deliver of a contract with the reader – Who is Jill? – What kind of pills is she swallowing? – Whose pills are they? – Why are the bottles unmarked? – Why are the pills in her freezer? – Why does she have so many pills?When these questions don’t get addressed, the story tends to veer off- course, eventually leading to that feared block. 21
    22. 22. Summary• Write What Interests You.• The Story Web• Breadcrumbs• Writer’s Block 22