Friday, November 28, 2008

What's your 'go-to' story?

Every short story writer needs a "go-to" story, a story that she can write without hesitation any time an editor says, "I need 3,000 words by Thursday." The go-to story might arise from a basic plot, a hook, or some other device that the author favors, but it must be one that can consistently provide an infinite variety of stories.

For example, a writer of short romances might go-to the basic girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl-gets-boy-back plot.

Start by imagining a job or life situation for a female character and a male character:

She's a waitress; he's a truck driver.

She's a kindergarten teacher; he's a single father.

She plays second base for the company softball team; he's a league umpire.

Then give them a "meet cute":

While serving him at the truck stop where she works, she spills hot coffee in his lap.

It's the first day of school for his child and he arrives at her kindergarten class with his crying child in tow.

When she's at-bat, he calls a strike on a pitch that's clearly high and outside.

Although I've written a fair number of short romances, this isn't my go-to story because I only get as far as the meet cute before I fumble.

My go-to story is far more versatile because I can hang an infinite number of stories from a single hook:

A woman discovers (learns, realizes, confirms, suspects) she's pregnant.

What's your go-to story?


pattinase (abbott) said...

When I become a go-to person, I'll be ready with a go-to story.

Graham Powell said...

Revenge! The double-crossed bad guy goes gunning for the other, badder bad guys.

Susanne said...

Now you tell me, Michael. I never knew about having a go-to story.

I thought the process was:

1. Glue proverbial to chair.
2. Drink LOTS of coffee.
3. Keep writing until word count reached.
4. Proof, polish and revise as needed.
5. Submit before the tight deadline!

Michael Bracken said...

Even with a go-to story in your back pocket, you still have to put in the writing hours. What a go-to story does is answer the question, "Oh, my God, what am I going to write about?"

For some of us, having a go-to story eliminates several hours (or even days) from the process.

Of course, if you go to your go-to story too many times, editors might suspect you're a one-trick pony. So, hold it in reserve until you really need it, or ensure that your go-to story has infinite potential variations.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I don't have one and have never heard of such a thing before.