Nano Lessons: Invent a Story

How do you measure stories? Metric word-tons? Faerie statistics? Syllabic tonal scales? Fish data-points? So I've told 247 fish data-points of stories, a conservative estimate because I've only written a handful down.

Creative writing is not the same as blogging or writing essays. While I don't have the appropriate MLA-formatted scientific reference to prove this statement, in my experience, writing exercises a different part of the brain than drawing or painting or project management or gardening or doing dishes.

A digital art journal creation... working with photographs from our summer trip to Europe & art journal pages. Used a bunch of different iphone apps including FUSED. I'm calling these digital mash-ups.

A digital art journal creation... working with photographs from our summer trip to Europe & art journal pages. Used a bunch of different iphone apps including FUSED. I'm calling these digital mash-ups.

So I did NaNoWriMo for the first time this past November, and it was quite an adrenalin rush to focus on writing. Super energizing to know that so many people around the globe were writing too. My daughters {13 and 16} and I all did the challenge. DD13 and I wrote about 17.5K words and DD16 "won" NaNo with 56K words! Twice during the month we had a little writer's group meeting where we took turns sharing excerpts from our stories. a) a well-written section, b) a good description, c) something funny, d) a place where we needed help. And we defined what kind of help we wanted, so there weren't tears or issues.

For d) there was a place in my story where the main character realized something important, and I felt like it didn't express the drama of the situation. My younger daughter suggested that I describe my character's physical response {using the senses} to the realization. It was definitely good advice.

But it's not my first rodeo, er, story.

When it was my turn to tuck-in the kids at bed-time, I would either read the kids a book or invent impromptu stories... for years and years... a few years beyond when they could read by themselves.

Inventing stories on the spot was something that I challenged myself to do, to push the limits of my creative thinking skills. The secret was to close my eyes and allow an idea from the day to float into my mind. I'd grasp that idea and attach it to another idea. Here's an example. The unrelated ideas raccoon + Jeopardy would flutter by. So I would make a character a raccoon and give him with the personality of Alex Trebek. So I'd put them together, like a jigsaw puzzle, stepping stones in the story. The ideas melded together to become a story about a scavenger hunt backstage on a TV game show. And the kids' reactions would also guide the stories. The parts of the stories that they liked most {in terms of laughter or gasps of surprise} would be embellished further. I'd wrap up the story with a good ending.

One story was about a girl who rode a skateboard that had magical powers. In another, the characters were numbers. Physically... numbers. A planet with farmers that grew silverware crops that were so valuable that people came from other planets to steal them. A horse-zebra and pack of animal characters that traveled the continent doing special assignments for the president.

My husband had his own series, one story told over many years. The girls were superheroes who traveled on adventures. They met up with an eclectic never-ending array of superheroes with powers for both good and evil.

And while I didn't really develop a plot for my NaNo story until early December, I loved the experience and plan to do it again next year. Yup. Exhilarating. It was a fun time to jump back onto Twitter.

I share essays about art journaling and creativity in the Daisy Yellow Zine. Issue #15 just launched.