“Paper: It May Burn, but It Won’t Crash”: The Story Behind the Idea

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Here’s an essay I wrote last night for Poynter.org called “Paper: It May Burn, but It Won’t Crash.” I got the idea for this piece from one of my good friends, who indirectly reminded me about the importance of not just thinking, but talking about your stories — your own life story and the stories you write, hear and read.

Sure, you can mull over a story idea in your head, or scribble notes on napkins when inspiration decides to visit you in the bread aisle of the grocery store, but when you talk about your ideas, you can better articulate the meaning of your story, the “why should I care?” of your story.

I’ve been doing a lot of talking lately, and it’s helped me to think about purpose and meaning and how these play into writing. When I tell people I’m writing a story, they’ll often say, “Ooo, you should check out this Web site,” or “Have you read this study?” I then have that many resources to peek at and ponder over. That’s how I came to write my most recent essay. I prepared, prodded, peeked, poked and pondered. It’s a strategy that works for me.

What strategies do you have for developing your story ideas?