Finding the Story that Surrounds the Pivotal Event

Whether you are writing a memoir or developing character background, this is an exercise that can help you find the “story.”

First make a list of pivotal events from your (or character’s) life: for example, first day of school, a move to a new home, a first kiss, first loss of a family member, etc.

Choose an event from your list. Free-write for 10 minutes what comes to mind in response to these questions:

• What did you (or your character) desire in your life before this pivotal event?
• When and how did this desire begin or intensify significantly? Could this be the beginning of your story?
• Did you have a struggle in trying to fulfill this desire?
• Did you learn anything from the struggle?
• How did you change after the final pivotal event? • What did you do that indicated this change?
• What did you realize when this stage in your life came to an end?
• What do you perceive now as you remember it? When you read over your answers, you may begin to sense a story: a desire, a struggle and a conclusion.


A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.


Shirley Corder said...

Thank you Heidi. Some good suggestions for brainstorming here that apply to non-fiction as well as fiction.

Kathleen Moulton said...

Heidi, I am taking a short course with writing prompts and free writing. I couldn't believe how much it drew from me. I used to think I couldn't write "on demand" or that it would prompt more thoughts and more writing. Now I know better!

Thanks for sharing.

Karen Cioffi said...

Heidi, great brainstorming ideas. I've never started with pivotal events and worked around them. Very interesting.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great questions

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