Friday, September 23, 2016

Saving Story Seeds

I’m writing this on the last day of summer. Sheets are drying on the line, the day’s petering-out raspberries have been picked, and nasturtium seeds have been collected from their scattered positions on the back deck. And now, it’s tea and words time…but my thoughts keep going back to those seeds.

I’ve never saved seeds before. I had to Google what to do with them to make sure they’ll be in good condition to sprout next year.
  1. dry them
  2. discard any mouldy ones
  3. store in an air-tight container in a cool place
  4. plant in the spring
Seems easy enough, right? Well, I’ll let you know in May, haha. But to be honest, the writer-me is much more concerned about seeds of a different sort, so if you’ll allow me a stretched-to-fit analogy, let’s chat for a minute about story seeds--not full-fledged story ideas, but precious fragments that find their way into your stories to make them rich, colorful, complete.

Do you collect story seeds? Do you take care to preserve them in such a way as to allow them to sprout and blossom when the time is right? How can we do that? Here’s my handy-dandy guide to making the most of story seeds... ;-)

  1. recognize them – All those little things that grab your attention or evoke strong emotions in you…the particular slant of light on the mountains, the expression on a child’s face when his mom yells at the sales clerk, the image of a goat munching happily on the sod roof of the Coombs Market (yes, that’s a thing), a failure of the justice system, a lone detail from a news story about immigrants, the taste of root beer candy, the heart twinge you feel at the memory of a loved one you still mourn. All these things that you notice, that you tell your spouse or best friend about, that get you riled up, or that send you into the stacks to research—recognize these as story seeds.
  2. don’t discard any mouldy ones – Your inner editor says they’re nothing? they’re not worth saving? Ignore him! If it warranted your attention or emotion for a time, it’s worth saving, no matter how dumb or trivial or "mouldy" it may seem. Maybe you’ll use it someday, and maybe you won’t, but if you turf it now, well…you’ll never know what story it may have been perfect for.
  3. store in a safe place – I like to jot story seeds longhand in a journal, but you could do a Word file (that you backup regularly, just like all your other documents, right?), or a private Pinterest board, or a shoebox of scraps and coffee shop napkins and pictures discreetly torn from magazines in the doctor’s waiting room. You could capture story seeds on your phone with the camera and voice recorder and memo apps. Whatever works. Just store those seeds where they won’t be lost. 
  4. plant them – Sift through them from time to time and see if any leap out at you, if any whisper (or shout) that they belong in the story that’s currently brewing. Don’t worry if the ones that call to you don’t seem to go together, because maybe they’ll end up blossoming in the most magical way. (If not, they can go back into storage for a while, perhaps to be planted in the next, next story.) And finally, don’t be afraid to use them up…because you’re always collecting more story seeds, right? 

Are you a story-seed saver? Have you got any tips that help you make the most of story seeds?

1 comment:

cleemckenzie said...

I have to make a note on my Google calendar to remind me to plant those seeds or the season passes and--oops--too late.