The Birth of a Story

Each writer is different, and each writer finds his/her own way to come up with a story. For me the process is not at all mechanical or subject to a formula. And it changes a little with each new story. 

I only discovered what I wanted to write when I realized I had some things I wanted to say, and express, through fiction.  I’ve always loved writing, but unlike some others, I didn’t want to write until I had something I believed in to put down.  And then I discovered that my fiction would only work and  would only live in the reader’s mind when I wrote about something I cared about – or had an intense interest in.

But fiction is tricky… a story really needs to have its own integrity, and value just as a story. It can’t just be a transparent vehicle for some political or social message to ride on.  A story needs to grip the reader and take them on a journey in which they do not know what is around the next corner – but really want to find out.  Story – STORY – is sacred.  It’s how the First Peoples passed on the events of their lives and generations.  And today, it’s how I create a world and get you to come into it.  And for all the eons we’ve been around as humanity, stories have been important to us.

So, as I describe on my bio page, as a kid I loved to explore the hills and canyons surrounding the San Fernando Valley. I actually had a very strong desire to discover things different from my ordinary everyday surroundings.  And, having found a few Native American artifacts virtually in my own back yard, I wondered – could these be real, are they really what they appear to be?  As I got older and was able to drive myself around to explore the hills even further, I started to sense another presence in the open fields and places off the beaten track that the ever-spreading development hadn’t yet covered over.  And this feeling, this ephemeral sense of something, would periodically haunt me.  It was a deep feeling that there was something here that needed saying or writing about.

A couple of decades and many interesting experiences passed.  From the late 70’s through the mid-80’s, I had had a series of about 7-8 very unusual dreams, which appeared to be lessons – some simple and some profound, some momentary and others longer – usually consisting of a spiritual or philosophical lesson presented as a living, 3D, color, interactive experience. Near the end of these dream experiences, and sometimes after I awoke, I had to discover the moral or the point, if it wasn’t obvious.  During the dreams, I always felt as if someone was communicating to me very deliberately.

In one of these dreams, I was following an older Native American on horseback through a steep canyon.  Something happened, and our experience together taught me a profound lesson in a very beautiful way.  I awoke very moved by it. I immediately thought about putting it in a story. But I didn’t – for a long time.

By the mid-90’s I was thinking of stories and ideas for stories a lot. My mind was working on ideas even when I wasn’t at a desk or computer. And in this frame of mind I had another dream, and when I awoke I was very excited, and knew I wanted to create a story out of what I had dreamed about, because it was true to what I cared about in many ways, and it could be set in the hills and oak woodlands of the western San Fernando Valley – the Tongva’s home territory for thousands of years before we got there.  And I realized also that I could finally incorporate what I had learned in my dream of six or eight years before, when I “rode” the dream landscape with a Siksika companion and teacher.

So that was how and when this story was born – a bit unusual, and a bit ephemeral in nature – which is appropriate, I think.  What do you think?  I’d love to hear your comments and your own experiences.