4.3 Hooked by lines and images
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Sometimes your subject will suggest itself to you through a line that simply emerges in your consciousness as being in some way significant. Raymond Carver described how the single sentence: ‘He was running the vacuum cleaner when the telephone rang.’ gave him the idea for a story:‘I knew a story was there and that it wanted telling. I felt it in my bones, that a story belonged with that beginning …’ Or perhaps a particular image, more than a line, presents itself to you in this way, as the key to a story. Novelist John Fowles described how he came to write The French Lieutenant’s Woman: ‘It started four or five months ago as a visual image. A woman stands at the end of a deserted quay and stares out to sea. That was all. … These mythopoeic ‘stills’ (they seem almost always static) float into my mind very often.’ The more you immerse yourself in your subject and in what you want to write about, the more you will encounter these sorts of lines and images.
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‘One sentence inspires great novel’: it could be a headline. Often the motivating force behind the writing of a story can be an odd line or image that somehow sticks with the writer.
Have you ever found inspiration to write from a single sentence?
What about images? It could be an awe-inspiring sunset, a work of art or simply an imagined scene that just won’t leave you.