Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Everything is Fodder for a Writer By Michelle Ule

Michelle Ule
How long are you going to work on your family history?” My husband asked.

“Only until we jump the ocean,” I laughed.

The story, which involved many nationalities, traditions, and wars, consumed far more of my attention than I anticipated.

I often wondered why I was wasting time in stuffy libraries rather than staying home to write the great American novel.

But all that research and writing turned out to be invaluable in the future.

What is fodder and how does it apply?

Webster’s Dictionary defines fodder as “readily available material used to supply a heavy demand.”

Novelists need story ideas.

We can find them anywhere.

In my case, when an opportunity arose to write a 19th-century historical novella featuring a log cabin, I merely reached into my family history and pulled out a compelling incident.

I even included my 3x-great-grandfather Thomas Hanks as a character.

The same thing happened a year later, this time using Thomas’ son as a character. I ended up liking him better as a result!

Innocent fodder

Novelists often overhear dialogue that lodges in their minds.

Clever words and turns of phrase can provide fodder for character construction.
A novel can spring to life from an inspiring book written by someone else.

Unexpected smells, tastes or experiences often trigger our imaginations in surprising ways.

Memories of long ago hurts can provide a deep emotional connection with stories.

What about endnotes?

A cousin challenged me when I wrote my family history, “You’re a good writer, Michelle, but you need to cite all your references.”

I grimaced but made sure to cite every source.

Twenty years later when I wrote my proposal for 
Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman Behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional, I pointed to those 932 endnotes as an example this novelist had the skill to write a proper biography. 

Twenty-five years after finishing my family history—which included clever quotes from ancestors—I’ve mined the research experience and stories well.

Check out your diaries, letters, and memories. 

I’ll bet you’ve got fodder for a compelling story!

Click to Tweet:
Novelists need ideas. We can find them everywhere. @MichelleUle joins #SeriouslyWrite with ideas to find story fodder. http://bit.ly/SWMichelleUle

Memories, unexpected tastes, family history and more fodder sources for novelists from @MichelleUle on #SeriouslyWrite. http://bit.ly/SWMichelleUle

About the Author
A Poppy in Remembrance
by Michelle Ule
Michelle Ule’s most recent novel, A Poppy in Remembrance, was inspired by a great book (My Utmost for His Highest), family history (WWI), and includes many memorable quotes from her father. She blogs regularly at www.michelleule.com

Spanning three countries and the four years of World War I, A Poppy in Remembrance is the epic story of an American woman struggling to become a journalist in a man’s world. As she searches for where she belongs—spiritually, professionally and emotionally—Claire Meacham discovers God and love through her relationships with Oswald and Biddy Chambers, an earnest YMCA worker, and a dashing New Zealand soldier, all the while seeking that elusive byline.