Have you ever been challenged to write a particular story? I’m not talking about writing to a theme. I mean a real challenge, where there’s an undercurrent of doubt. There’s a hint that something can’t be done. When I have that kind of challenge, I will spend many hours imagining ways to make sure I can do it. Does this ever happen to you?
For me, I usually end up with more intriguing stories this way. Because I put something of myself into it–my own heart and soul–and then the story becomes uniquely mine.
When I was a cocky youth, working on my first million practice words, I had a conversation with my young nephew who challenged me to write about a tiny, uninhabitable island in the lake at our family home. Sometimes only the treetops were visible.
I had no idea what that story could possibly be.
I spent many months trying to imagine how I could put a mystery story on that island. I kept at it because I’d promised that I could. So I poured pieces of my heart and soul into it. It became my first published book, The Drowning of Chittenden, by Rebecca Williamson.
Many years and several unpublished books later, I was writing stuff about which I knew very little. By day, I was working out with my daughters in a grueling program in a karate studio, and by night I was writing. One of my critique partners kept saying she wished I would write about karate. The implication being that at least I knew something about that, unlike the drek I was writing. This time, the undercurrent of doubt came from me. My first draft was a story about a twenty-something, hotshot karate sensation, and while she was interesting, the story was not. But my critique partner kept up enough pressure that I was determined to make it work. When I remembered to put my heart and soul into the character, Nell jumped off the page as a middle-aged mom of a teenager, and then my imagination soared. Now I’m working on the fourth Nell book.
Challenges force us to dig deeper. Do they make you imagine bigger and brighter stories, too?