Gail Anderson-Dargatz  

Resources for Writers

On Revising

daniel agaisnt brick wallStories from Nowhere

The day I wrote my first short story is still vivid in my mind. I was at a cafe, I had a blank sheet of paper in front of me, and I just started to write. An opening line had been floating about in my mind, but I didn't know where that line would lead and had no idea what the story was going to be about. I just knew this line was the start of a story. And it was. The sentences tumbled out, scenes took shape, characters shouldered their way onto the page. I wrote without really thinking, and it wasn't until near the end of the story that I understood where it would wind up.

That was sixteen years ago. I've just published my book, Stopping for Strangers, stopping for strangersand every one of the ten short stories in it started in the same way: a first line in my head, but no clue as to where it would lead. The beginning lines themselves came from a variety of places. Some were overheard snippets of conversation, others were sentences from the radio, some were just lines that came to me from out of the blue. After a while I got to know what made a great jumping off point: the best openings had a kind of critical mass to them, a certain movement and momentum suggestive of a story that might follow.

Here are a few starting lines that I used: “My sister and I were on our way to see our Grandfather one last time before he died.” “The Ugly Duck was closed, so my brother Marv drove us up Dufferin, past St Clair to a bar called Dixies.” and “I found out because of a dream...”

Up until the moment I set pen to paper, I never let myself think beyond the first line. To let my mind explore where the words might lead would somehow ruin their magic.

And it did feel like magic. The best of these stories practically wrote themselves. In fact, it sometimes felt like I was taking dictation, that I was plugged into something larger—hooked into to the collective stories of our subconscious.

Daniel Griffin is the author of Stopping for Strangers (Vehicule 2011), a collection of short stories. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals across North America, have twice been selected for the Journey Prize anthology and were collected in the 2008 edition of Coming Attractions. A graduate of UBC’s optional residency creative writing MFA program, Daniel is the father of three children and lives in Victoria BC.  He is currently finishing his first novel. For more, visit his website.

Resource Categories

Blogs on Craft

On the Building Blocks of Fiction

Tips on how to craft vivid scene that allows the reader to experience events right along with the characters.

On Finding Your Big Idea

Insights into the writing process and what a writer's day really looks like, as well as perspectives on research and writing from real life.

On Getting to Know Your Characters

Advice on the many ways you can make your characters come alive on the page for both you and your reader.

On Deciding on Point of View

What is the best perspective from which to tell your story? Writers discuss how they made choices on point of view and voice.

On Choosing Your Situation and Setting

Writers talk about how they use situation and setting to build story and convey emotion.

On Developing Conflict and Structure

From how to work in different genres to finding the real story, writers offer good advice on building conflict and structure.

On Revising

Tips on how to gain distance from your work and to how to re-imagine your next draft.

On Publishing

Writers offer practical advice on the business of writing and promotion, and on the importance of finding a writing community.

On Making a Living as a Writer

Writers offer words of wisdom on living on less.

On The Writer's Life

Writers talk about their life as a writer.

About Gail

Gail's novels have been national and international bestsellers and two have been short-listed for the Giller Prize, among other awards. She works with writers from around the world on her online teaching forums.