How do stories form?
I've been thinking about this since the inspiration post yesterday, wondering at the alchemical processes that go on in my head while a story is forming. For me, I think, it's a sort of agglomeration process. I have lots of individual little ideas floating around my head, and they come from almost anywhere: films, books, technical ideas, memory, photographs, pictures, events, news, dialogue, music… almost anywhere. They're not stories, not yet, just little sparks. Ideas… little somethings trailing a few "what ifs?"
And so they float. I don't usually try to force anything. I twiddle around, sometimes, but mostly I just let things simmer, let my subconscious play with these sparky little floaters. Except they're not really sparks, as I tend to see them as something sticky… like sticky bits of pollen floating around, looking to germinate and seed themselves. I let them float… and inevitable they bump into each other, ricocheting about… and sometimes these collisions lead to ideas sticking together. And still they float, but now they have a greater mass, they bump into more ideas, picking them up one by one. So that stickiness is the giant glue-stick of the brain, the sudden agglomeration of ideas.
It's then my job to go sniffing about and see what I have (are stories so different from a chemically induced delusion?). Usually I know what I have right away: when a bunch of separate ideas hook up together I usually experience one of those little "eureka" moments. With sudden clarity I see how the ideas fit together, a new cohesion (a story) forming out of what seemed random chaos.
And then comes the conscious part, or half-conscious part: first I dream, trying to see and feel the story, letting characters and events have a little free rein to play themselves out. Where does that take me? Do I have the heart of a real story? If there's something there, then I set my rational brain to work a little, trying to solidify a few things: conflict, story arc, plot. If I can get a rough shape that's to my liking I can then start writing. Things are still pretty open, pretty fluid, because the writing, for me, is as much about exploration as revelation.
So I write until the story is done, and then I can revise… but that's another post entirely.
That's me. What about you? How do stories form and ferment inside your head?