Stories are all around us. The essences of stories permeate our entire being and are everywhere in our experiential world. But how do we tap them? How do we use them to fabricate stories? How do we create story fragments that, later on, may just be the genesis for a much larger piece of work?
Those are the challenges facing the aspiring writer. As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes its not lack of material that paralyzes us, but an overload of information. Our inability to parse that plethora of information, to reach in and extract some subset that we can use to craft a tale, is what we mistakenly refer to as “Writer’s Block”, or “Writer’s Cramp”.
One place to start is to look at some facts. Perhaps there’s some thread that unites these facts and that we can use to tease out a story.
As a “for instance,” consider the lowly flowering bush, the Oleander.
Fact #1: The Oleander manufactures a phytotoxin load that makes eating the leaves, or even tasting Oleander sap, deadly to most living things. The plant has developed these exotic poisons to protect itself from predators. In fact, since the Oleander branches are very straight and very long, a number of humans fall deathly ill each year by using the branches to hold marshmallows and hot dogs over open campfires.
Fact #2: There’s an oleander caterpillar, the Syntomeida epilais Walker, that parasitically thrives on the Oleander. It lays its eggs on the underside of Oleander leaves, and the caterpillar, with an orange colored body with numerous tufts of long, black hairs, lives on and thrives on eating Oleander shoots and leaves. Its adult form is a polka-dotted wasp moth, active during the day instead of night, its beautiful iridescent blue/green wings and body studded with white spots and sporting a red/orange-tipped abdomen. The caterpillars and the moths both have Oleander-manufactured phytotoxins coursing through their bloodstreams and tissues because of their diet.
Fact #3: South Florida, where both Oleanders and these unique caterpillars thrive, is also the home to a breed of small, insect-eating reptiles. These chameleons dine on flying insects, notably mosquitoes, but also anything else they can catch. Their long, sticky tongue can reach out almost a complete body length to snare an unsuspecting insect.