And Then I Had A Collection: How One Inspired Short Story Gave Birth To A Collection Of Stories

Less than two weeks ago inspiration hit me HARD. For the first time in over four years I was writing fiction. The characters came at me before I could get every aspect of their personalities down (thank goodness for my memory!) while lines of dialogue flooded my brain and snippets of various scenes presented themselves, loudly. I was happy with this and thought, “All right, here we go.” Fiction used to be my go-to after all, the kind of writing I enjoyed reading the most (escaping in is more like it) and writing. Even if I was writing something ‘real’ I could dress it up as fiction by changing details, events and the players yet keep its core truth (and I did this probably more than I did straight up inspired fiction). The story that came at me twelve days ago was an example of something that really happened, but I put a fictive twist on it and the characters really are different from their ‘real counterparts’.

Then one week later (seriously, there must be something in the air on Thursdays) I was hit for the second time, even harder than before, with a second story – this one was straight up inspired fiction. And by inspired I mean that I wrote between one third and one half of it, in a single sitting. 4,200+ words later, I realized that these two stories could be related by different takes on the same word or idea. Before I knew it I was connecting the characters in ways I do not plan to hide, but also in ways that are not all that obvious. Soon after this I had outlined (in my mind) two other stories and ways to again connect each character or character cluster to each other by way of their relationships, not by a place, group or more abstract concept.

I am beyond excited for a few reasons. The first is how everything is connected, even though I am sure only careful readers will make those connections. I am excited about the theme or inspiration for the collection. I am excited about the story I am about to finish. I am excited about the story that started it all and I am excited about the next story I will write (which will also be the one to start off the collection), which is fully formed in my head. I am excited that with the exception of one story, all of the stories (so far) are truly inspired stories, not based on actual events or even people – real deal fiction.

Now obviously, since most short story collections have eight to twelve stories (ten being the most common, at least from the collections that I have read) I hardly have the entire collection at my fingertips, but I don’t need to. I have been so focused on my memoir manuscript and getting it ‘publisher ready’ that I could use a break and just write, to write. These are certainly not the stories I feel compelled to share (well except for two of them) or that I have to publish and put out into the world. One story is like that with the characters demanding my time and completely inconsiderate of my schedule, but for the most part these stories just give me opportunities to stretch, explore and breathe. One story is a character study of someone I am trying to understand in real life, another is a way of breaking silence through art, another exploring a concept and all of them allow me the opportunity to play, make the connections that happen, what feels right, and change what doesn’t (no matter how much I want it to). I see each story and the space between as ways to explore storytelling, narrative, characters, relationships, and limits. The idea of creating a world that is part of this one, but also very much its own is exhilarating.

I love that simple inspiration in the shower surrounding a single story has transformed into this – an entire short story collection. What a welcome back into the wonderful world of fiction. And again, I don’t give a flying fig (yet) what becomes of it; if it is ever published or if anyone ever sees it. I have my memoir for that. For now I am just writing it out of a love to write, to tell stories and my truth. Because every time I write, no matter what it is – that is exactly what I am doing. I am not just telling a story – I am baring a part of my soul to the world and sharing my truth.

-DMW

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