Story Writing Interview

A while back I went on a creative writing retreat with Jennifer Louden. I was looking through my 2018 journal, trying to down-size and keep only the pages that had good stuff and I found this exercise. If you have a project you’re working on ask yourself these questions and keep writing for at least 2 minutes for each answer. The second two questions get at your ‘why’ - what some people would call your core values. Knowing your why and/or your core values helps you keep going when things feel sticky. The same principles apply to all projects wether it’s creative or business or both.

Set aside 10 minutes to answer these questions:

  • What/when was the first spark of your story?

  • Why do you care about the story?

  • What does the story in it’s ‘done-ness’ want you to know? (answer this question as though the story is speaking to you, telling you what it wants you to know about it when it’s complete)

Here are my answers:

What/when was the first spark of your story?

I was thinking about all the greyness in London (UK). The grey sky, the pollution, the people with serious hard faces - and the juxtapositions - like the bright parakeets who have made the river Thames in South London their home, and how the river bursts its banks every month and although it’s a regular thing it always takes people by surprise - cars end up floating on the water - so out of context with the normal day to day where everything seems under control and scheduled and known. I began thinking of an ordinary woman who could live on the same street I grew up on and how an angel could arrive, wanting a normal life, and end up on a house boat. I thought about how the world could become more colourful and people more joyful. What would it take? How could it come about? And the idea of the river, the walking path I knew as ‘the toe path’ along it, so familiar to me, and my small childhood street with it’s dollhouse like homes, seemed the place to begin changing it all, just as the river and the parakeets could - but of course with a little help from a tired angel and an ordinary woman and her cat with magical ancestry.

Why do you care about the story?

I care because I’m dissatisfied with life when it’s sombre, overcast, colourless and disenchanted. I care because I believe it can be deeper and more wonderful. I care because there are hints that magic is around and I secretly hope its true. I think if people were re-enchanted there would be more beauty, more health, more wisdom, more wild land, deeper conversations, and people choosing livelihoods that makes them joyful.

What does the project in it’s done-ness want you to know? (my answer to this question is as though the story itself is speaking to me)

The story feels like a treasure chest filled with beautifully scented flowers. I imagine breathing in the scent of jasmine in the evening.

Like there are stars in the sky, so there are earth stars that make life twinkle. You are a contributor, an earth star - this project is that - it is part of you, the story. You were born with this story. It came woven around your arm like a bracelet adorning you. It’s not yours, per se, but it is your gift to give. The way you tell it is yours. For example it’s pink, or jasmine, because of you. Write, write and write and let the fullness of the story emerge and fly on the wind of pages and pages - let it out so it can be received by others.

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Lucy Paget