In the 38th in a series of posts on 2013 books entered for The Story Prize, Andre Dubus III, author of Dirty Love (W.W. Norton), discusses the seeds of his stories.
How often does an idea for a story occur to you, and what triggers those ideas?
I seem to get two to three story ideas a month, all year long. What triggers them are the slivers of things: parts of an overheard conversation; a brief local news story; a woman, man, or child I might see on the street; a friend going through a bad time. These all present potentially dramatic situations I find I'm curious about, leading to the same central question: What would that be like? But some story ideas have more pull than others, and you can't control this; you just have to be aware that your curiosity has changed, and, as you keep digging with words, it leads to layers of human experience you find yourself even more curious about. This means that you have to abandon any notion of what you, the writer, wants to write about or say. Instead, you have to let the story write you.