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Do you have a story for me?

As my first post in Alchemy, this must be the place to start – the story.

The pre-eminent role of a fiction writer is to tell a compelling story. Amid all the advice about style, character development, stakes, punctuation, editing, publishing – it almost entirely comes back to the story. Frankly I don’t like Dickens’ writing style (it’s archaic) and prefer Hemmingway’s (stripped-down, punchy) – but I’d rather read Dickens because the stories are simply more unexpected, even joyful.

So, what’s your story? The story you’d love to tell? It doesn’t matter if it’s about your life, or a turning point in your life. It could be a slice of an imagined life, sci-fi, romance, historical drama, adventure, noir, fantasy (not my favorite, although I still think back fondly on Narnia and The Hobbit). As a writer, or fledgling writer, you have the entire world of human experience and imagination from which to draw inspiration. Don’t let the mechanics of

all this, the seemingly endless banging away on a keyboard writing and re-writing and editing stand in your way. Start with your story.

If it helps, here are my stories. The Theory of My Wonders, which was inspired by Isamu Noguchi’s ‘Monument to Mankind.’ I imagined it as one of a new seven wonders of the world, and built a strange sci-fi drama around that. Bad Napkin was inspired by finding the lusminus list a romantic partner wrote about me when I was in my mid-twenties (as you can imagine, the relationship ended pretty soon after that), and I tuned that into a Young Adult comedy. An unpublished sequel, Bad Behavioral Science, developed around my fascination with (you

guessed it) behavioral science experiments (there’s a great one in which you cheat at tic-tac-toe/noughts-and-crosses to see how quickly the other person gets angry!) But perhaps my favorite was a very short story, six hundred or so words and no dialogue, about a young woman on the brink of fame as a singer – it was called The Mermaid and was published in three different compendia’s. It was an imagined self-reflective moment in the early life of Amy

Winehouse, her realization of fame taking her away from reality (so from human to half-human, like a mermaid, geddit?) There’s even talk (and, yes, mostly talk) of trying to make a TV movie of it.

So, start with your story. Be bold. Be different. Be real. Because that’s what a storyteller is.

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