I was reading a particularly good story (Brave Girl, Quiet Girl by Catherine Ryan Hyde) the other day and it set me to wondering; when was my first memory of a story being told to me. The very first one? I must have been three or four when I first heard of Cinderella. Many stories were told orally by my mother. It’s really amazing how many fairy tales she knew by heart. I believe that began my life-long-love of story telling. When I got a little older, my mother went on to tell me hundreds of stories about her five sisters and their growing up in the woods of Tumwater, Washington. (Wild Violets)
At about age eighteen my sister gave me three books by Erich Maria Remarque. I don’t remember why those particular books, or why that author. Arch of Triumph, A Time to Love and A Time to Die, and All Quiet on the Western Front. (First Editions, copyright 1954) I wasn’t a reader of books; a typical teenager who got plenty of assigned reading in high school left no time for pleasure reading. Sigh. I can’t believe I was ever of that mindset!
I had idolized my big sister since birth and wanted to please her in all things so I began reading the first book. I was enthralled with the writing and the story. Sixty years later I still have those books; From that moment on I have always had a book in my hands.
There came a time when I felt I should try my hand at ‘storytelling’. Writing plays at first. Telling a story in less than 100 pages. It came so naturally. Friends who read my plays wanted more of the stories; fleshed out as it were. (What happened to the characters after the play was over; what were their lives like before the play began?) and they insisted I expand the stage play into a full length novel. Which, even though it took me years of labor, I did.
As I lived my life I was always the one who sought out stories. I never tired of my mother’s tales about her and her sisters and what hellions they were. My own library of books grew and grew. Walls of books.
Around 1994, I sat down and wrote my first stage play…and as they say…the rest is history! By this time I had read hundreds of scripts (during my acting career) so I found it extraordinarily easy to write in that format. It certainly sharpened my skills at writing dialogue. Along the way, I discovered that ten minute plays were very popular and for me, easy and fun to write.
In another life I must have been a forensics detective because, as a hobby, I love murder, gore, forensics and clues. Characters come first for me when writing and one day Detectives Jack O’Roarke and Stella Garcia popped into my head. They were fully formed and rarin’-ta-go! (World of Murder).
My advice to writers? If you’re just starting out, tell a story you know . You can always research a topic that you don’t know anything about but your writing will take longer, because you must get it right. Keep writing!
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