Begin your journey as a writer by looking at your own life's stories.

Taking the First Step: Writing as a Journey

You may be wondering how to begin writing your story. There’s an improv game where the people tell a story together. The formula is always the same, but hopefully the story isn’t.

It goes like this:

First person, “Once upon a time there was a _______ .”
Second person, “Every day they _______.”
Third person, “until one day _______.”

And thus the journey begins.

When you open a book and delve into the story, what grabs you is the journey. Usually, you are not reading a normal day in the life of the main character, but a story of when things became different. When thinking of a journey, usually I think of that as synonymous with travel. There are some wonderful examples of amazing stories where the characters leave.

One of the first things I think of is The Lord of the Rings, where Frodo accepts the quest to leave the comfort of the Shire and travel to destroy the ring. Luke Skywalker had to leave his home planet and travel through the galaxy; Arthur Dent, likewise, traveled the universe; Don Quixote traveled the country to fulfill his glorious quest. There are a lot of examples, especially in science fiction and fantasy, of the protagonist leaving the place where they are comfortable and going somewhere different.

But can a journey happen even if a person doesn’t go anywhere? Of course! Most people are on a journey of some sort, a journey of change and discovery. And it is that change and discovery that makes the story interesting. Some amazing stories where the protagonist doesn’t have to go anywhere include Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Guy Montag’s journey is his change in beliefs and ideals. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout details the normal, everyday happenings of her town, but she learns and grows from each instance.

For those of you who are writers out there, sometimes the journey is hard. I’m talking about your journey. It is not easy to sit down, come up with characters, a plot, and write something amazing. But just as your character is experiencing something hard, so are you.

You may not be the one slaying dragons or flying a spacecraft, but you may be going through your first draft thinking “Why did I just write this crap?!” Just as your protagonist cannot give up–because that would probably not be the best read–you too must keep going. As you see the journey in your own life, you can more easily translate that into your story.

For those of you who want to be writers but do not feel you have a story to tell, you do. You may not come up with an epic, but you can start small. You can start with yourself. What is the journey that you are on? What is the thing that happened differently today? Describe it. Add detail. Make it a story. You can then take it away from yourself and give this to a character and add more adventurous things.

We read stories for the journey–because we relate to that. Be on your own journey as a writer and as a person.

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