Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Where Does A Story Start For You? (With McCall Hoyle!)

Stephanie here! We have contemporary YA author McCall Hoyle with us this week on Go Teen Writers!

I loved McCall's The Thing With Feathers that came out last fall. This is the story of sixteen-year-old Emilie Day, a girl with epilepsy leaving her safe, homeschooled life for high school on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For the first time, Emilie must navigate classes, cliques, and crushes, all the while keeping her epilepsy a secret. It's wonderful!

Let's get on to today's panel question!

Where does a story start for you? Is it with a character? A situation? A concept? A topic? A scene? Is it always the same or does it change? 

McCall: I wish all of my ideas came in a similar way. Then I could develop sort of a plan of attack that I could use over and over again without having to recreate the wheel. The bad news is my ideas come from all over the place, so every story requires something of a new plan. The good news is I never get bored because my ideas come from all over the place.

Sometimes, something in the news catches my eye, or I read some nonfiction article or scholarly article and think what if this happened to me or someone I know?

More often, my story ideas start with an emotion, and a lot of those emotions come from my teenage experiences. I also teach high school and middle school and spend a lot of time with teenagers--probably more time with teenagers than I do with adults. I see and hear and feel what my students are struggling with emotionally in their own lives. Oftentimes, their struggles hit a nerve and remind me of how I felt when I was that age. I love to write about how differently human beings deal with a similar situations.

Most of my stories deal with grief in some way, shape, or form and how people deal with it because my father's unexpected death seventeen years ago was the greatest life-changing event I've ever experienced. It was the most emotionally painful event of my life and an event that taught me a lot about myself, my family, and people in general.

Honestly, I think ideas can come from anywhere, and that's what I love about writing. In real life, I get bored very easily. In writing, I know there's always something new to tackle--something that will make me laugh, or cry, or scare me silly.

Jill: I think for me, it’s a story concept. The ideas always come in different ways, but all my ideas are about a concept. My Blood of Kings series started with a dream about an impostor prince. Replication came to me with a “What if . . . ?” question about a farm that grew the same boy named Jason. The idea for the Mission League was a spy organization that fights against evil. The Safe Lands was inspired by putting the Babylonian Exile in a dystopian future. Kinsman Chonicles was a Blood of Kings prequel about a continent that was dying. And RoboTales are fairytale retellings in a science fiction geared toward boys.

Stephanie: For me it depends on the genre. My contemporary fiction has almost always started with character. With Skylar, I wanted to explore a character who knew she was beautiful on the outside, but felt ugly and rotten on the inside. With Ellie, I wanted to write about a girl who had become invisible to the people who had once been her closest friends.

But my historical fiction varies so far. The Lost Girl of Astor Street was a concept: Veronica Mars meets Downton Abbey, which morphed into more of a Veronica Mars but in the 1920s story.

Within These Lines was born from a topic, though. I listened to a podcast about the Japanese American concentration camps during World War II, and I wanted to write about it. 

Shan: It changes! Every time. An image in my head I want to puzzle out. A concept I’d like to follow through to conclusion. A puzzle I want to see in full. A compelling character. A setting that sings to me. I’ve worked on stories with all of these as starting points. The drafting is often different depending on where I start, and that keeps the writing new and fresh for me.

What about you, writers? Where does a story start for you?


  1. Oh, what an interesting idea! I think many of my stories start with "what would happen if...?" or simply "what if..?" A few of my stories were based on dreams I had. Some were based on real life experiences I needed to write out. My latest novel ( a story about breakups and relationships) was really just my whole life fictionalized, and was a way for me to heal as my main character searched for healing.

    1. I love this Keturah! You're are so right about he healing power of writing our own stories. Thanks for sharing. <3

    2. Yes! It's amazing how it works... and extends that healing to others :) Thanks!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I removed that comment because it had a typo. The typo was driving my writer brain crazy. :)

    2. I hate that you can't go back and edit!

  3. Thanks for having me. I'm loving reading everyone's answers this week! <3

  4. I thing that most of my ideas come from different places. My current WIP was from this ancient character that I dusted off and reduced to the bare bones, just because he's always had potential (and I can't remember where I thought of him from). Another project I'm carving away at came form me looking at a part of my life and wondering what if this fantastical thing happened? I think it's kind of a way for me to express my feelings about a certain part of my life while playing around with some fantasy concepts.

    ~True //

  5. My style is closest to Jill's--it starts with a concept. Maybe I want to write a fractured fairy tale, or a story that blends genres, like superhero fantasy. That's how both of my recent major projects started, with just an interesting concept that slowly got fleshed out into an entire, amazing world and characters.

  6. Great post!
    My stories almost always come from character ideas. My writing has always been very character driven. Occasionally though, an idea will spring from a scene or concept, and that’s always kind of fun.

  7. Great post, as always!
    My story ideas come from different places. My current WIP started with two characters, and the plot came from there. Another book I wrote came from a “what if?” question.

  8. Great post again!

    My story ideas always start with two people having a conversation. It makes me always wonder who they are, whether they know each other, and if so, what their relationship is, how they ended up having this conversation etc. etc. ect.

  9. My stories vary. My Civil War series came from a desire for someone to just write the truth for once.

    My modern Christmas novella came from me just wanting to try out a plotting technique with a coffee shop setting. Then, it became my way of showing respect to our Police force.

    I have several ideas for future books and most of them are inspired by an idea in a historical setting. When I heard about Germans resisting Hitler, a scenario popped in my head for a trilogy.

    Other times, heroes inspire me. Mostly, I want to write the books I can't find;)