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Putting on my story-filter

The Rich Writer: Putting on my story-filter

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Monday, August 24, 2009

Putting on my story-filter

There’s this thing I do, now that I’m a “real writer.”* I do it without even noticing, most of the time. I do it when listening to the news, while watching kids joke around at the bus stop, even when I’m on a romantic date (sorry, sweetie….it’s the danger of dating a writer.)

What is this thing of which I speak?

Here it is: I put on my story filter. 


A story filter is a mindset, a pair of mental glasses through which I view everything around me. It’s the filter that takes a snatch of conversation and directs it to the part of my brain that’s working on a YA novel; it sends the image of a kid with straight blond hair, sunburned cheeks and a gap-toothed grin and files it as a possible picture book character. It takes the NPR news story heard in the car and slots it in with possible article ideas, and it analyzes the heartsickness of losing a treasured necklace so I’ll know how to describe that emotion later, when it’s felt by my character.

I feel as if the world is my textbook and I’m constantly studying. These tidbits, recorded in my memory or, if I’m lucky, in a journal or on a scrap of paper, give me a rich source of ideas when I sit down at the page.

So is this story-filter automatic? For me, yes, it is now something I do automatically—but it hasn’t always been. At the beginning, it was something I had to cultivate. Something I had to practice. But if you do…well, it does cause rather odd thoughts to slip through your head at random moments, but it also helps you to notice all those little details that will bring your writing to life.

So go ahead: start developing your own story filter! If nothing else, it gives you a great answer for the next person who asks you what you’re thinking!

:) Cheryl

*By “real writer,” I mean a writer who’s convinced herself that that is what she is, who actually admits that’s what she does for a living, and who devotes regular, consistent time to the practices of writing, marketing, and continuing education. Publication is nice, too, but not essential. Just in case you were wondering….

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At August 25, 2009 at 4:58 PM , Blogger Tia Nevitt said...

I love doing this. I'm coming up with things from my childhood to put in my historical novel. A trip to Ponderosa Steakhouse in the 70s. My grandmother, who was a young lady in the 20s, and who was just full of stories about growing up at the turn of the century. I'm also preparing to tap into my parents' memories with extensive interviews.

And congratulations on the acquisition of your agent!

At August 25, 2009 at 6:59 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Thanks for the congrats--I'm so happy with him. I'll have to do a glowing-praise-of-Gary-Heidt post at some point :).

And I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who gets a little geeky in the story realm. Wow, your family sounds like a treasure trove of great stories and period details!

(Although maybe you shouldn't phrse it that way: "Hey, Dad, can you provide me with some period detail to help me flesh out my historical fiction novel?" Might not go over so well....

At August 26, 2009 at 8:01 AM , Blogger Tia Nevitt said...

I called him a while back to see if electrical plugs have changed substantially in the past 50 years. The answer was, nope! If you took your laptop to the 30s, you'd just have to file one prong of the plug so both prongs are the equal width, and then it would work perfectly.

I didn't ask him like that! But I think he would have laughed at me if I did!

At August 26, 2009 at 8:15 AM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Sounds like you have a fun dad!


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