In the illuminating introduction to her Selected Stories, Alice Munro considers the recurring setting of her fiction: “The reason I write so often about the country to the east of Lake Huron is just that I love it.”
She goes on to describe how memories of particular images from that geography will motivate her stories in their earliest, most daydreamy forms. For instance, Munro describes the image of “snow falling straight down” that served as the seed of a story. In its finished form, there’s no reference to that image, no trace for the reader to dwell on, but all the same, that snow falling in that particular way brought about the story’s composition. It’s a kind of secret, brought on by an initial daydream about a particular landscape. And like most secrets, the image carries with it the aura of mystery. When writing, as my former teacher Max Apple has said, we should “dare to write and dream what makes no sense to anyone else.” That “snow falling straight down” was its own kind of mystery for Munro, something she saw that no one else did.
Maybe the encouragement to write about a person, place or idea because you “just love it” is what the original advice-giver of “write what you know” was really getting at. You write about ________ because you love ______.
This prompt helps refocus your attention on your latest source of mystery and inspiration:
First, daydream to find your place. For Munro, it’s the country to the east of Lake Huron. Then locate the secret. Munro describes it as “snow falling straight down.” After that, write a scene, whatever comes to mind first. Extend out the story-world. Return to your starting image if you get stuck.