You’re sitting in front of your computer, drumming your fingers on the keys as your coffee cools, and the remaining minutes of your hastily grabbed writing time are dissolving like an ice cube under a sun lamp. You grow more agitated with every passing second. You can hear your precious time dripping down the drain. And yet, you don’t have a clue where to begin.
What you don’t realize is that you’re at the perfect starting point! You can begin any kind of story you want. And best of all, you have the opportunity to start it with a Bang. Here’s the secret: merge something commonplace with something unexpected.
You’re familiar with the technique; it’s the fundamental element of almost every joke ever told. Consider the old stand-up line: “I met a guy in the soup line the other day. He said he hadn’t had a bite all day. So I bit him.” [Cymbal crash]
That’s the idea, and with a little effort, a story will evolve from that humble bit of wit. Here are some examples of ten different ways to get a story rolling:
Try using a quotation:
“Don’t take yourself so seriously,” she said. So I laughed as I killed her.
After hearing, “It’s not you; it’s me. I’m the problem,” at least ten times, Juanita began to wonder if maybe the problem was something else.
Advice could be good. What’s the best you (or your character) ever received?
“‘Clean your gun every day,’ the old cowboy said, but he never practiced what he preached. He’s buried right over there, beside the dead rustler.”
Never juggle when you’re riding a bicycle. Trust me on this.
I married a vampire.
My job is like an open wound.
Pose an intriguing question:
Why do they always put the biggest butthead in charge?
If beauty is skin deep, how thick is ugly?
Think about the future.
Five years from now I expect to take my father’s place as the CEO of Banister Technology. Of course, there’s always the chance he won’t live that long. Arsenic is funny that way.
Define something, or someone:
I’m friendly and caring. My step-sister, though, was the poster child for lunacy in motion.
Paint a scene.
I always hated market day in Bridgeport. The sewage ran ankle deep in some places, and we could never afford to set up shop on high ground.
Jeb Dooley was every bit as clever as the Three Stooges or Wile E. Coyote.
Dorna had the looks of an angel and the personality of a Doberman pinscher.
Dilemmas offer great opportunities.
So little time, so many banks to rob.
One should never arrive late when summoned by a mob boss, or his girlfriend.
Make up an anecdote.
It’s been twenty years, and the memory is still fresh — the rock music, the odor of suntan lotion, the heft of a gallon of margaritas. Who wouldn’t remember a funeral like that?
Try it! What have you got to lose?
Next up: A different take on outlines.