Where do stories come from? What is a story?

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be posting comments from a number of award-winning, in some cases, bestselling, authors about the source or inspiration for their various novels. Before getting into that, we should start with the question, What is a story? It can be short, six words, (re: Hemingway and Fitzgerald conversation), or it can be WAR AND PEACE. The answer is, to the degree there is one, is that it may be what Louis Armstrong said jazz is: If you have to ask, you’ll never know.IMG_0041

It may be easier to say what a story is not. It is not an incident, and it is not an anecdote. Incidents become anecdotes, and anecdotes become stories in the hands, or words, of a storyteller. One of the perils of being a well-known author is that many people approach you and say, “I’ve got a great story.” As one author said, “But they always talk about an event, something that did happen, or might happen. No one ever says, ‘I’ve got these great characters.’ If they did, I would listen.”

There is a long history behind this six-word story (you can Google it if you’re interested), and it goes back to a classified ad in New York newspaper in the early 20th Century. This is the Hemingway-Fitzgerald version. Hemingway told Fitzgerald he could write a complete short story in only six words. Fitzgerald didn’t believe him. Hemingway wrote: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Here is what some established writer have had to say about writing: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/writing-tips-_n_3319260.html