When it comes to creating a story, I don’t start with an idea. Like the story will be about the difficulty of staying married. Or death is inevitable. A lot of the story-creation books suggest that is a good way into the story. I don’t start with a plot either.
My stories always begin with a character acting in a situation. It’s as if the character is a stranger I meet on the street. I do not work from a profile. Too many things to remember. I learn a character as the story moves along. A story that might begin with a man and a woman at dinner.
“The soup was good,” Dora says.
Kat’s response might be, “You think?” Maybe he didn’t think the soup was that good. Maybe he’s just super critical. Then Dora might decide no more dates with this guy. In addition to being critical, I just discovered that he is forthright. And Dora doesn’t care for critical, forthright men.
Or Kat might respond, “I thought so too.” Even if he didn’t like the soup, he isn’t going to tell Dora. So he’s either courteous or he might be a guy who hides things from others.
“I never eat a meal without soup. Even my breakfasts have soup.”
“Breakfasts have soups?” Kat asks.
“They are called cereal.”
“What do you see in soups?”
“I like their texture.”
Kat never thought of soups that way.
“Next time,” Kat says, “I’m taking you out for a steak.”
“Do they have soup?”
The two date a few times. Each time they go out, it’s soup. For the both of them. He begins to love soup as much as Dora does. He never knew he loved soup until Dora. She made a connoisseur of him. They even start planning their vacations around soup-tastings. For the first time in his life, he feels he belongs to a special group. The food subculture of soup-a-holics.
The next time he sees his friend, Joe, he says, “I’m getting married.”
Joe asks, “I don’t believe it. What did it for you?”
“She likes soup. And I like that she likes soup. I even like soup now.”
“There’s no reason to get married over soup.”
“Can’t think of a better one.”
“Every time we get together we end up talking soup. We have something we’re passionate about in common.”
“What else do you have in common?”
“Don’t need anything else. It’s like me and my brother.”
Joe is confused. “You’re comparing her to your brother?”
“Just this. My brother and I have only one thing in common. Other than we’re family. We both love the Chicago Cubs. We can go a whole week talking Cubs and only scratch the surface.”
When Kat asks Dora to marry him, she asks him, “Why do you want to marry me?”
“I’ll always remember the first time you ordered minestrone. I’d never met anyone who put so much effort into eating soup. You first tasted the broth. Then you took just a small bite of the pasta. It was like you were doing a wine tasting. There was such ecstasy on your face. I knew right then I wanted to spend my life with you.”
“Well,” Dora said, “we may not have Paris. But we’ll always have minestrone.”
You see what I mean. How did I know who Dora and Kat were? I didn’t until they started talking. Until they started acting. Then it was only a matter of getting to the minestrone. It’s not a full blown plot but it’s a good beginning.