One day, he had an idea, born out of a pair of words: “The Lake.”
These words blossomed into a truly beautiful story, which was, “…about love, time remembrance, and drowning.”
After finishing this tale, Ray Bradbury went back to writing the way he had been doing before, always striving to create something great but never succeeding. It took several years of writing average stories before he rediscovered this simple technique, which transformed ordinary stories into something great.
You may know how to write. You might even know how to write well. But can you truly say that you can write stories that are above the rest? Do you really know how to create something that is truly beautiful? Do you characters occupy chairs besides the great heroes of all time? Homer, Huck Finn, Hercule Poirot, Frodo Baggins, Sherlock Holmes, Conan, Sam Spade?
Most writers don’t pay too much attention to the title of their story. Its just something they use to describe their tale. Most writers never really appreciate the power that a great title has over their story.
The dictionary has a dry description for the word: “TITLE: the distinctive name of a work of art, musical or literary composition, etc.”
Words evoke images within the mind. When someone is reading a story you’ve written, every word makes a difference. Before you can learn to evoke dreams in the minds of your audience, you must first learn how to dredge up the truly great things within your own mind. How is this done?
Ray Bradbury has a simple method for creating truly great stories. Write down lists of NOUNS.
Take a look at Ray’s list: THE LAKE, THE NIGHT, THE CRICKETS, THE RAVINE, THE ATTIC, THE BASEMENT, THE TRAPDOOR, THE BABY, THE CROWD, THE NIGHT TRAIN, THE FOG HORN, THE SCYTHE, THE CARNIVAL, THE CAROUSEL, THE DWARF, THE MIRROR MAZE, THE SKELETON.
Each of these nouns contains the seed of a fantastic story, hidden within the subconscious mind. Take a word out of your mind and let it simmer in your subconscious. These magic words contain an entire story, rolled up inside of them.
Do not simply give your story a title, tacked on after the fact like perfume sprayed on a filthy dog. Your titles are where your stories come from. You should be able to look at a title and imagine the entire story inside of it. One person might look at a list of nouns and see nothing except a bunch of words, lying like a pile of leaves on a forest floor. But a true writer will see an entire forest of trees behind those leaves.
Ever since I started using this technique, my stories have turned into something great, far better than anything I could have written before.
Do not underestimate the power of the simple words that come out of your own subconscious mind.
What Kinds of Lists?
When creating a list of words to use for stories, ask yourself these questions:
1. What do you love?
2. What do you hate?
3. What are you in awe of?
4. What gets your blood boiling?
5. What terrifies you?
6. What makes you laugh?
What to do now
Sit down and write out a list of words. Use these as the seeds of all the stories you write. When you’re creating a story, every chapter, every scene should contain a title that evokes images and dreams from your subconscous mind. This is how to bring your dreams out of the world where stories come from. This is how you can turn an average writer into a great writer.
Get Ray Bradbury’s book, “Zen And The Art Of Writing” for more of these great techniques.
– Mark O’Bannon