In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King says that stories aren’t things to be plotted out beforehand, they are things to be found — dug up, like fossils. He says — and he seems to mean it quite literally — that all stories exist already, like in their own special dimension or something, and it is the writer’s job to find them and extract them while keeping them as intact as possible.
I’m not sure how many writers would agree with this — I feel like if a lot of people felt this way, I would have heard it before. But I have to admit that I rather like it. Of all the things I’ve wanted to “be” throughout my life, a fiction writer was never one of them. It was one thing I felt I could safely cross off my list (even ahead of nurse, and I hate needles). In junior high and high school, the assignments I dreaded the most were the “creative writing” and poetry assignments. I felt like I didn’t have a creative bone in my body, at least when it came to making up characters and plots and climaxes and resolutions out of thin air. I was much better at arranging and analyzing elements that were already there. But now I’m being told that I don’t have to make them up out of thin air! How liberating! At one point I did want to be an archaeologist, so if writing is just archaeology, then I may actually try my hand at fiction after all!
Okay, I’m getting a bit carried away. But I do like the magic and poetry of the idea. It seems like a good basis for a story itself, even. But I’m curious to hear from any writers out there — what do you think of Stephen King’s theory? Is it hogwash, or is there some truth to it?