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Friday, July 24, 2020


by Judy Ann Davis

Did you ever wonder why you became a storyteller? And how many times has someone asked you: How do you write a story? They don’t mean the rather dry, formula rules of language and publisher requirements, but rather, how do you dream up your ideas?

Erskine Caldwell, author of Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre, once said, “The reason I am a successful writer is that I consider creative writing to be motivated by a certain state of mind; and I believe that only those who are born with the gift or who acquire the indefinable urge to express themselves in print can accomplish it.”

He goes on to say that this state of mind is an almost uncontrollable desire that seeks fulfillment at any cost. It’s a craving that will not be denied, similar to the overpowering physical necessity for food and drink. The intensity of this state of mind forces a person onward to whatever extend he is willing to go in order to achieve his conscious, or subconscious, goal in life. Caldwell also indicates the degree of intensity of this state of mind is the measure of success or failure.

So, what is his definition of a novel or short story? “It’s an imaginary tale with a meaning, interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention and profound enough to leave a lasting impression in his mind.” And, he goes on to maintain there are natural-born storytellers, but he believes the greater number of fiction writers acquire, either by diligent practice of by intelligent instruction, the ability to create a story with completeness that will interest persons other than the author.

What do I believe? I believe that as fiction writers we all are dreamers, and we all like to ask, what if? Yes, we are creative and probably have some instinctive or natural ability, but we also have learned the meaning and use of words and how to construct sentences to convey our thoughts. For each story we write, we probably have (in our imagination or on paper) conjured up a plot or mission statement, possible characters with motivation and goals, and maybe a loose story outline or synopsis. We believe we truly do have something worthwhile to say that will entertain and will leave some type of impression, if not a lasting one, upon the minds of our readers.  

Do you agree? What propels you to sit at your computer, pound the keyboard hour after hour—and day after day—without becoming impatient and giving up?


  1. I feel compelled to write. Before I wrote novels, I wrote newspaper and journal articles and long, long letters to family members. My half-sister once said she was proud of me for becoming a romance author but on another level she hated it because I stopped writing long letters. The point is, if we are inclined to write, we find a way.

  2. I think humans are natural storytellers and it goes back to the caves as a way to share truths. Today, humans probably give over too much storytelling to the movies or television and don't develop their own stories. Writers just do that.

  3. I'm sure storytelling goes back before they created an alphabet that spelled words, or had anything to write on. Maybe that's why they chiseled stories in stone inside caves, etc. It was probably the only form of entertainment people had thousands of years ago. I'm glad the desire to write and tell stories was passed down.


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