Jena Petrie | The Development of a Story
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The Development of a Story

The Development of a Story

A few weeks ago we had visitors to stay with us from overseas. They hadn’t seen much of the North Island so we took them on a trip away for a few days. There were too many of us for one car so we split into two and stopped frequently for a get-together and chat over coffee, or during sight-seeing.

It was on one of those coffee stops that we heard about a river near the town of Putararu. Not a large river and you’ll be wondering what was so significant about this one. Apparently it contains the cleanest water in the country and was easy to reach.

So, we followed directions out of town and into the country, turned off into a side road and stopped when we found a line-up of cars. After a walk of only a few minutes we glimpsed the river, with beautiful shades of green plants around it, and a lovely green weed floating on the water in places.

Further down the path we stood on a bridge and peered down into amazingly clear water, watching a small trout swimming around.

The bank of the river is along the top of the photo with grasses, ferns and other foliage growing there. Below this are stony areas but judging by the colour to the left, the bottom of the river appears to be sandy. You can see which way the river’s flowing by the direction of the weed.

I was struck by the similarity of the clear water and floating weed, to the way stories begin and grow. The transparent water is like gaps in a writer’s knowledge when she first starts a new story. The weed is like the germs of ideas that develop and expand, filling the blank spaces of her knowledge of the characters, their motives, reactions and the hurdles they must overcome in order to reach a satisfying ending for the reader.

I used to try and let my stories develop on their own like this as I put the characters into various situations, but it doesn’t always work for me so now I’m trying a more structured approach.

You can be the judge of how this works when I publish my first book, hopefully in a few weeks.