The following are three examples taken from writers I’ve talked with. I’ve left out their names and titles of the finished works to bypass any comparisons or degrees of success in terms of the final product or anything aside from those elusive beginning, promising moments.
There’s a spunky lady who also doubles as a kind of gatekeeper or acquisitions editor who relies on a visual springboard. For example, one day she had this image of a cowboy, plopped down on an open vintage convertible with running boards, stripped of its tires, propped up on cement blocks with the Texas hill country in the background. The cowboy’s hat shielded him from the sun but he appeared to be gazing directly at someone or something that had caught his fancy. Then and there our spunky writer began to wonder who he was, what he was up to and, in short, what in the world was going on.
It wasn’t the opening gambit, our writer had no idea of a story structure. She just knew there was irrepressible energy brewing that had to be worked out.
A New Yorker and a seasoned writer who had moved to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut often keyed on relationships, especially those that had gone wrong. In those terms, he always writes to discover things that, all the while, he didn’t know that he knew. In one personal instance, after all these years he had never gotten over the fact that his father had continually disparaged his foray into singing and show business instead of pursuing something more manly like sports or gone into business. And so, at a certain point, this seasoned writer felt compelled to go back in time and create a scene under some circumstance or other whereby a son finally has it out with his disparaging father. Again, no thought was given to how to arrive at this climactic scene, only that it was high time to creatively work through this conundrum.
Lastly, a highly sensitive lady scribe often had troubling moments when she was aware that in someone’s life this was patently not going to be just another day. That all the plans and dreams and life formulas hadn’t at all panned out for, say, a single or divorced or sickly woman approaching middle age who might not be able to go on. Perhaps she was still living with her mother. Perhaps she might not be able to get through the night. What in the world will happen to her?
In short, the catalyst could be anything that taps into each writer’s unique sensibility and lingers until she or he simply can’t slough it off and has to go to work, regardless of whether or not there may be an market for the finished product.