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Where do story ideas come from? Everywhere. Stolen from many sources. Not, of course, stolen in their entirety – that would be plagiarism, but taken in bits and pieces, like a magpie, attracted by shiny things, taking a word here, a shade there.

A tinge of someone’s emotion, a splash of descriptive colour, that clear, unforgettable image, a turn of phrase, a lilt of voice, just one small tattered corner of an unusual experience and just that slow spreading drop of low key feeling. Bits and pieces from everywhere.

What do you do with such a peculiar and unconnected assortment?

A strange thing happens and not at the conscious level. It happens behind the mind, behind thinking, in some hidden grotto of the subconscious. All the fragments, all the contrasting colours, the words and the images swirl around in some hidden inner whirlpool.

You don’t see it. You can only trust that it will happen and keep happening until it boils over.

The end comes suddenly.

It emerges.

Not all at once, slowly, slowly. The face of the story emerges, coming out of the shadows, still dripping primal mists, still trailing cloudiness in its wake, but emerging clearer and clearer.

Sometimes it takes patience, waiting for it all to arrive and fall into place.

Sometimes it’s so full blown that all the writer has to do is write it down.

Sometimes it tantalizes, coming in waves and hesitations, a hue here, a shape there. You have to carefully collect all the sparkling bits and stitch them together.

There you have it – an original and unique story with no trace left of the stolen bits from which it emerged.

And even as you edit and prune and finalise and submit, the magpie mind goes its own unseen way, cocking its bright head, fixing its gleaming eyes on more shiny baubles, the shape of an eye, a slice of left over conversation, the outline of a moment, a snatched image or two. Everything is prey and everything is fodder.

You don’t see that thrifty collection where nothing is ever thrown away, but its there, inside somewhere, a vast treasure of life lived and loved or even unnoticed. Every shade and everyline. It’s there. Collected carefully by the magpie, preserved, stored and ready, so that one day, when you are writing, you will have another original story.

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