by Christine Hennebury
Half the battle with writing is getting started.
The blank page seems enormous. Your brain flashes a million ideas past you…or it goes blank.
Every idea you do manage to hold on to seems trite or overdone.
It’s not a fun feeling.
Yet, you know you *want* to write. You would love to have a story or essay or novel written. What you need is something to grab onto, a handhold, a way to pull yourself forward just a little bit.
You need 100 words.*
Sure, 100 words is not a full story (unless you are writing a drabble!), it’s not even enough to describe an elaborate idea. It is, however, enough to get you started.
And once you’ve started, then you can keep adding 100 word sections until you have some writing momentum.
Let’s explore some ways to get those first 100 words.
For the record, it doesn’t matter which of these ideas you choose. The point is to get started, to tell yourself the story. You can always edit it, change direction or drop these early piece later, but you can’t do any of those things if your page is blank.
Jump into the middle
Pick a conflict of some sort and start writing about it. You don’t even need to know your characters’ names at this point, you can just have them start talking, or shoving, or throwing things. Or, if it is an internal conflict, have them start ruminating about it.
This kind of thing can end up being the heart of your larger story but you don’t need all the details to start writing about it. This is just about getting some ideas to take shape.
Pick an outfit
No, not for you, for your character. Think about some pieces of clothing you saw people wearing today. Choose one of them and build an outfit around it for your character. Why did they choose that clothing? Is it important to them? Are they showing off? Trying to hide? Do they need this outfit in order to do something in particular?
It doesn’t matter that you don’t know the rest of the story right now. You are just focusing on this one telling aspect of your character and you can expand from there later.
Find something to eat
Again, not for you. (Although, a writerly snack is always good.) Imagine some food. It doesn’t matter what kind. It can be a meal, a snack, something you enjoyed eating as child, or something you hate eating as an adult. Start writing about it.
Why is it good? Who eats this sort of food? Do they share it? Are they hoarding it? Do they feel good about it? Does it remind them of some other time?
You don’t need to know anything about the character at this point other than their relationship to this particular food. You can always develop the idea further at another time.
Pick a chair
Think of somewhere a character could be sitting. An armchair, a park bench, a bus seat, a throne.
Start by describing the seat itself and then move into the character who will be sitting in it. Why this chair? Why now? What do they like or dislike about sitting there? What does it mean to them?
Again, this is just a starting point so you don’t need the big picture. The chair is just going to be how you pull yourself into the world of your story.
This time, with feeling
Emotions are another great place to start, so just pick one. Any feeling at all that you would like to explore.
Let’s use anger as an example.
If you start with anger, you can ask yourself the following questions – Who is angry? What are they angry about? Who is their anger directed toward? How do they show that they are angry? Are there consequences for their anger?
It’s ok to work with an emotion in isolation. The rest of the details will come later as you continue your explorations or expand into story planning.
After the first 100
So, if you have picked one of these, you should be well on your way to your first 100 words. What you do next is up to you.
You can keep coming back to the list and writing 100 word segments or you can expand on the segment you have already written. Perhaps, you can use the ideas that came out of your first 100 words and plot out the rest of your piece.
No matter which path you choose, I hope that you just keep writing.
*Obviously, you will need lots more words than that but you have to start somewhere.
Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her at christinehennebury.com or visit her on Facebook .