20/20: 20 Tips from short pieces

Want to get a story? Get a life.
By Lorrie Lykins

Lane DeGregory’s list of instructions on generating story ideas that grow into memorable narratives is probably opposed to any advice your mom may have given you—talk to strangers, play hooky, hang out in bars, eavesdrop on strangers, take down the numbers of people who post notices on Laundromat bulletin boards (and call them), hand out your own number to everyone, and be sure to hang around with the rough-looking crowd.

DeGregory writes stories about people who are on the edge of their communities, and she goes out there with them. Her list of tips may be about where to find the often quirky characters she writes about, but beyond that, her message to narrative writers is to look for stories everywhere, from the moment you walk out the front door in the morning. The person in line behind you at the grocery store might be your next great story, but you won’t learn this if you’re not open to conversation with strangers.

Scan your environment. Look for stories where there don’t appear to be stories. But most importantly, DeGregory reminds us, the best way to write compellingly about the lives of the people in your community is to be part of it. Get out of the office and attend a little league game, stop at the corner pub on your way home and listen to the conversations around you. Read the smaller free newspapers that are tossed in your driveway, read the classified ads in your own paper. Talk to anyone. Narrative is about life, and in DeGregory’s words, “Get a life, get a story!”

Lorrie Lykins is a full-time freelancer based in the Tampa Bay area.

Posted in identifying the story, sessions.20 Tips from 20 Short Pieces, speakers.Lane DeGregory on December 12, 2003 at 05:14 PM | Permalink