So I hear you asking, “How do you come up with short story ideas?”
It’s a spiritual thing which generally occurs when I’m on my bed, trying to fall asleep at minutes after 11pm or somewhere near midnight.
More often than not, I’m asking God, “What should I write about next?”
And, sure enough, an idea rushes in like a mini flood, forcing me to hop out of bed, switch on the light and grab my dog-eared composition book and the nearest pen or pencil.
The rush may last less than ten minutes. When it stops, I stick my pen inside my book, close the book and return to bed.
On occasion, I misread the flood, close my book and switch off the light too soon. So I have to get up again, turn on the light and write down whatever residue is dribbling from my brain.
In the midnight hour, the story is almost always incomplete. But I don’t fret, not one bit, because it will continue to build on itself in due course, either the next day, days later, weeks later or, in a few cases, months later—many months later.
For me, the short-story writing process is similar to getting dressed (in a tropical country).
“How so?” you ask.
I begin with the basic story. The undies. No frills. Not bad-looking, but you can’t go out in public look so.
Then I add another layer. The blouse and skirt or pants and shirt, if you will. This layer may include more information about the character(s) or setting, or it may include additional scenes to bring depth to the story. Now, the whole thing’s looking much better than so-so underwear.
Then, I do a little pruning and sprucing up. You know, polish up the look—like trimming your split ends or touching up your greys before styling your hair.
Since my stories are set in Jamaica, I comb through the dialogue, read it aloud, drop in more patois or, if the patois is too heavy, I may pull some out—unless I’m trying to establish a point. Dialogue shouldn’t be tedious to read, dialect or none.
I also cut away words or simplify phrases that may slow the story’s pace for the reader. Here’s where I also substitute regular words with colourful expressions. It’s comparable to me slipping on a stack of gold bangles to accessorize a casual outfit. They’re pretty by themselves. But prettier when interspersed with one or two coloured pieces.
Then mi done! (Like mi done writing right now.)
Catch yuh next time!
Love and peace,