The Whisper of Stories

7789396494_416a539740 candle and books by lynn kelley wana commons

Photo by Lynn Kelley in WANA Commons

I am a true night owl, and that’s when my stories come whispering in my ear. I wrote last time about cultivating stillness in a world consumed by motion—we’re always going somewhere. But I believe strongly in stillness because that’s where both self-awareness and creativity come from.

Last night, I sat with my notebook and I waited. And, much to my surprise, a story I haven’t picked up in a while came wandering by. It’s a light paranormal romance, something very different from the often quest-based stories I usually write. But I couldn’t get the romantic arc quite right; something was off. Last time I worked on it, I expanded the story by about 10K to give the characters’ romance room to grow. But I realized it was missing something, some big sacrifice that allows the characters to come together. They didn’t really give up anything; things just sort of worked out in time. And last night I figured out a way to solve that problem, one that rose organically from what’s already on the page.

Stories whisper. Sometimes it feels like a hundred characters chatting away, a din of voices. And other times, in the hour after midnight or the hour after dawn, a character sits down, pours himself a cup of tea, and begins to tell you his story.

And that’s when the magic happens.

ROW80 check-in:

  • Do something writing-related every day, seven days a week: journal, write a poem, take notes on a story, read a writing book, brainstorm, etc. Lots of brainstorming, and continuing to work my way through Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron.
  • Reconnect with my spiritual practice. Started reading The Art of Bliss by Tess Whitehurst, which is all about applying the Bagua of Feng Shui to your life and your home.
  • Start a regular yoga practice. Nope. I’m hoping after the holiday craziness settles to pick this one back up. But between holiday prep, hubby being crazy busy with the end of the semester, and a new puppy, I’m not finding much room for yoga.
  • At least twice a week, explore another creative outlet, anything from scrapbooking to cooking to home decorating or Feng Shui. Can I count Tess Whitehurst’s The Art of Bliss here, too?

What about you? When do your stories and characters whisper to you? How do you make space to listen? Do you journal, or just sit down at the keyboard and type away? Or do your characters shout?

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9 thoughts on “The Whisper of Stories

  1. Great post, Denise. Like you, my characters and stories come to me when I’m being still, when it’s just me and my thoughts. I try to write in my journal every day. When I do, I have a plan on what I want to write about. But it spreads to different points because I try to keep the pen moving. Not stopping to collect myself.

    The same principle applies when it comes to writing my stories. Going to the laptop right away doesn’t work for me. I don’t get much done on the first draft because I’m editing while writing. So I’m writing the first drafts in my notebook, then typing them out. Writing my drafts longhand I have found to be more productive because it forces me to not look back, to focus on getting the framework in and worry about the small stuff later.

    • I love journaling. I don’t do it as often as I should–and I really should do it daily, because it keeps me centered and helps me tap into my creativity. Sometimes stories emerge from those scribbled pages.

      I’m glad you’ve found a process that works for you. I’ve found that the computer screen can be far more intimidating at times than a fresh sheet of paper. I don’t know why, exactly, only that sometimes when I’m stuck I can get words onto a piece of paper more easily than onto a Word document, especially when I’m trying to figure out how to fix something in a story–a plot point, a character arc, etc. Happy writing!

  2. Thanks for sharing your process Denise, you little story whisperer! It really helps to know that the process differs for everyone. I haven’t written much lately. I think my characters went on a vacation to tell you the truth. But lately I find them seeping back into my brain. So I know it’s getting close to writing again. And that’s okay. I, like so many others, have had a ton of things going on in my life. So I’m learning to be patient. Take care girl!! 🙂

    • Story Whisperer. Ah, I wish. Wrangling stories feels more like herding cats at times, LOL. My characters go on vacation sometimes too. I’m trying to learn that part of my creative process is that there will be lulls occasionally, and I just have to wait them out. Like you I’m trying to learn to be patient and wait for my characters to return. Thanks, Karen! 🙂

  3. The novel I’m writing right now was inspired by events I saw on the news when I was 13 years old. Which was a long time ago. The characters have only started talking to me in the last few months, but boy, do they want they’re story told. I also for probably 23 years have had a little girl in my head, she’s hiding behind her mother’s skirt and is scared to talk to me. I hope that when I have time to write her story that she comes out from behind her mom and tells me her story. So, I guess I not only listen to my characters, I watch them as well.

    Best wishes and thanks for sharing another great post.

    • I love those moments when you get a glimpse into a character’s life, when they let you see what their day-to-day experience is like. I recently met a new character as she was leaving an offering to the faeries–not because she believed, but because her grandmother had, and she wanted to honor that tradition. (Boy, is she in for a surprise!) Good luck with your characters and your stories, Chris. I bet when your character does come out of hiding, she’ll have an amazing and moving story to tell.

  4. I’m currently sharing snippets of a story that began when I was 16, and has lain mostly fallow in a corner of my imagination. When they finally roused themselves, and showed themselves to me…well, this one published short story seems to be expanding into my first novella – or maybe just a sequence of stories.

    Some characters sneak in, or refuse to follow the plan. One, a shapeshifting Huntress, tends to hang out in the branches until she decides it’s time to pounce.

    Then there’s this Vulcan lady who has a habit of waking me up in the middle of a sleep to tell me stories – with absolute calm – that made me cry so she wouldn’t have to.

    I am also a nocturnal writer – I even use that as a hashtag. I do journal, often just after morning meditation, and occasionally before sleeping, too. I have frequent writing showerpiphanies – yes, I even made up a word for it!

    I live a life rich in stillness and texture. And I think that is hugely important to my writing.

    May your characters whisper much – and I would be honored if you would allow me to add this post to my reblog queue.

    • Yes, my characters often keep me up at night. They also like to visit me while I’m doing chores–chopping vegetables, loading the dishwasher, walking the dog. And sometimes a character whose story has long been in the cobwebbed recesses of my mind will start talking, and I’ll realize it’s time to dust that story off and start working on it again.

      For a while, I left behind a life of stillness, and my creativity and my writing soon suffered. I’m trying to honor the stillness out of which art rises to greet us. Gazing up at the full moon, taking a quiet walk in nature, even just sitting alone with my thoughts–these are the things that fill the well.

      I’d be honored if you want to reblog this post, Shan. Thanks so much for commenting!

      • Stillness is so vital to the process!

        Thank you for the permission to reblog, and the honor’s mine! It might take me a while, working through those I’ve added first, but I’ll pingback to you when it’s up!

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