It Starts With a Song


It Starts With a Song

By Nandy Ekle



The way to start a story is with a song.

I have never claimed to be a musician. But I love music. I love country, rock, country-rock, opera, show tunes, instrumental, folk, seventies, zydeco, techno . . .

And sometimes, something I hear sparks a story.

Ballads, of course, openly tell their stories, and it’s easy to take their poetry and turn it into prose. Love songs also give us stories. Usually it’s easy to catch the meaning, but there a few you have to dig out. I’ve even ‘seen’ a story play out during an instrumental.

I love to listen to a piece of music with my eyes closed. I can feel beats and the notes. The words come to life for me and begin to act out the tale.

Some music inspires me by its melody. I’ve noticed a calming piece of music allows my imagination to open up as much as a story song. And bold sounds, along with fast beats will create adventure, danger, and urgency.

So the goal to writing stories while listening to music is to serenade my reader. I want to sing them my song of seduction, pull them in close to me and waltz them through the scenes. I want them to feel the change of atmosphere as the tones and beats change. And by the end, I want them tired, but willing to come back for more.

And this is the pay off.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

It Starts With a Picture


It Starts With a Picture

By Nandy Ekle



The way to start a story is with a picture.

I love photographs. I love to look back at my babies, all the homes I’ve lived in, cars I’ve driven, places I’ve been . . . Just different times in my life. We have wedding pictures, anniversary pictures, pregnancy pictures, pictures of illness, pictures of storms, mountains, oceans, clouds, pets, and snow. And we have pictures of children sleeping, playing, bathing, reading, fighting, and hugging. And each and every picture has a story.

Another kind of picture I like is something obscure in a magazine. I have never been there, I did not see it first hand, but it sparks my imagination. I can look deep into the glossy print and play-like I see myself running through the tall brown grass, dark clouds in the horizon and the sun behind me. Or maybe I’ walking the halls of a beautiful ancient estate looking for my lover. I wind my way through enormous trees following fairies and gnomes. I cringe under the cover of my giant canopy bed as the ghost tears its way through the room in the middle of the night.

So, as a writer, my job is to transport my readers to the same picture I’m seeing. I want them to live through the same adventure I’m having, and feel the same things I’m feeling. As soon as they turn to the first page of my story, I want to grab their hand and shout, “Come with me!” I want them to stay close to me and trust that I will get them through to the other side. And in this journey, they will want something, love something, lose something, learn something, and win something.

At the end, I gently drop their hand, kiss them on the forehead, and invite them to come again. And this is the pay off.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

It Starts With a Word


It Starts With a Word

By Nandy Ekle


The way to start a story is with a word. Can’t be just any word—it must be the absolute perfect word. Choose it carefully because it has to capture your reader and not let them go until they read the last word.

So you find your word and you know it is exactly the right word to start with. To this perfect word, you add another word, and to that, another. Soon, you have a sentence. And this sentence starts your story. At the end of this sentence, your reader should be so enrapt that walking away from your story is impossible.

But if you stop with one sentence, your reader will walk away after all. So you must put together another sentence. And then another, and another. Before long, you’ll have an entire paragraph.

Paragraphs are very important. For one thing, they are tools to give your story logical organization. Since a paragraph is a group of related ideas, it gives your reader a sense of what comes next, leading them in the direction you want them to go.

Paragraphs are also used to emphasize points. There are instances when you need an idea to stand out on its own. If you separate this idea away from other words and sentences on the page, your reader gets the sense of boldness.

Another thing paragraphs do is make the page appear more inviting. If you have a page of one sentence after another, no breaks, the reader feels like they have run a marathon. There’s no stopping place, no place to take a breath. This will cause them to get tired and give up before even getting to the end of the page.

So your paragraphs lead the reader through, building the story one paragraph at a time, one sentence at a time, one word at a time, you create a chapter, which has the same uses as paragraphs, but on a larger scale.

And then you have your book. And this is the pay off.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.