How to Write a Story

Someone asked me today how I write stories, or where I get the ideas for stories. I told them it was quite simple, really, and decided it’d be best if I shared it with you, as well.

The first step is waking up. Your body will take care of this, usually. Sometimes a passing stranger will also help, nudging you with their toe and trying to force you out from underneath the bus bench where you’ve been sleeping. It just depends on the day, really.

Once you are awake, examine the palms of your hands. The tattoos that you have upon them will have changed in the night, as they always do. Don’t worry about the tattoos – they’re very clearly written in Bookman Old Style and are easily readable, and you never feel them changing in the night.

On the left palm will be a time and a date, and upon the right will be an address. I suggest you familiarize yourself with a variety of postal codes so you can identify which state or country the address is in. This will save a lot of time down the road.

Next, you will need to travel towards the destination written on the palm of your right hand. I prefer bus, but you can drive yourself or walk or fly if you like. Don’t worry about being late – They’ve taken traveling into account, and you should have plenty of time to get there.

You will always be there at the right time. They know what They’re doing, you see.

The destination is almost always the same, no matter where it is. It is an old motel with full vacancy. Sometimes it will be made of wood. Sometimes it will be cinderblock. Sometimes it will made of cement or even grass, sometimes it will smell like cigarettes and camphor, sometimes it will have carpet and sometimes it will have wooden floors.

These are details. It is the same place.
Approach the old man at the front desk. (There is always an old man at the front desk.) Tell him you have come from the horizon, east and west, above and below, and you have come for a room.

Language will not be a barrier. But he will always be upset to hear you say this. Be ready – he may shout or scream at you or even cry.

Eventually he will ask you three questions. They may be very strange. You must answer them as best as you can. Do not lie – he will know if you do, and delay you.

Once you have answered the questions, he will provide you with a key in a small wooden box, and open up a door in the back. Leave the old man behind, go through the door, and continue down the hall until you come to the next door. Open the door with the key (the key will feel hot in your hand), and walk into the room.
It will be a moderately large room. Now you must stand in each corner of this room and then, facing inward, you must spit upon the ground.

You will see that each spit moves as it falls, as though magnetically drawn. Note where it falls.

(You can also do this with a cup of water – spilling it on the ground and seeing where it flows works well. But sometimes I do not have a cup of water, and so I recommend the spit.)

Once you see where it keeps wanting to fall, go to that area and pull up the floor. If it is carpet it will be easy enough. If it is wood, you will have to pry up the planks.

It is never stone. Stone would be bad, but They know what They’re doing.

Underneath the floor will be a trap door. It will be small, and black, and made of metal with a golden handle. Once it is exposed, you must wait. Wait, and do not go far.
Do not sleep. You must not miss what is about to happen.

When the hour that is inscribed upon your left palm comes, the golden handle will click and clank, and the trap door will be unlocked.

Go through the trap door. There will be an iron spiral staircase down, hanging in the darkness. It will be difficult to see, and there will be no walls, so tread carefully.

I do not know what is beyond the staircase. I have looked but never seen. And I know I do not want to go far into the darkness.

At the bottom of the staircase will be a small wooden desk, a chair, and an oil lantern. The lantern will be lit. It is the only thing you can see at the bottom of the staircase. On the desk next to the lantern will be a typewriter. And next to the typewriter will be a small crystal bottle.

Written on the bottle will be the word: DRINK.

You must drink what is in the bottle. It will not taste very good, but you must.

Then you must sit in the chair, and face the typewriter. You will feel a tingling in your hands. When the tingling becomes overwhelming, you will have to place your hands on the typewriter keys.

You have no choice. Your hands will want to go there. But upon touching the keys, things will go dark, and you will sleep.

When you next wake up, wherever it may be, you will see that the tattoos upon your hands have changed again, and it is time to travel once more. Check the leather sack hanging from your shoulder – you will find what you have written inside.  Read it if you like. You will have no memory of having written it, and it will probably not make sense to you.

It never does to me.

You will have to do this several times before the writing is completed. Then you move on to the next thing. And the thing after that, and the thing after that, and the thing after that.

This may not be how everyone writes, but it’s always worked for me.