Have you ever heard the one about Michael Finnegan?
- He had whiskers which constantly fell out, then grew back in.
- He went fishing with a pin (or a pinnegan),
- He grew fat, then thin,
- He drank all his gin,
- He had issues with coordination for he did dreadful things with his shins.
Of course, this Finnegan bloke is a fictitious character who first appeared in a song in the 1921 edition of The Hackney Scout Song Book. The number of stanzas in the song depend on how many words or phrases rhyme with Finnegan. The unifying lines in each stanza are the first:
There was an old man named Michael Finnegan
and the last:
Poor old Michael Finnegan. Begin again …
While the very existence of interminably long songs like this ensures that I will never volunteer to be a scout leader or a bus chaperone, it does teach me something about writing.
- In each piece – like in each stanza – we must get the right words in the right places.
- Each piece of writing must come to an end. There are, after all, a finite number of words that can rhyme with Finnegan. (Thank you, Lord)
- When we reach the end, we must begin again – somewhere, on something, with a different set of words.
Over the years I’ve talked to beginning writers, best-selling authors, and somewhere-in-between wordsmiths who are on the hunt for ideas.
And here I am, sitting on file folders full of them.
I drive down the road, see two men gesticulating in a driveway, and wonder what their story is.
I hear a snatch of conversation and think … “First line!”
I grab a writing utensil and whatever paper is handy and I scribble down the bones, and then I put it in the file for LATER.
I’ve discovered that, while LATER does come, it brings with it a fresh set of challenges and … more ideas. While I am thankful for this abundance, the weight of all those story seeds wearies my arm so that I cannot even lift a pencil. Where do I start? What if I choose the wrong story? What if I choose the right story? What if, in my fear, I hold onto the stories so long that they lose their germination power?
These questions lead me to another discovery:
Sometimes faithful stewardship of story seeds means we give them to others to plant.
At the end of my days, I want so very much to be considered a faithful steward.
So, writers, get ready.
It’s time to begin again.
How to Use Beginagain Starts:
- Read each prompt, clicking on the links if there are any. (I will try to have clean links, but enter at your own risk!)
- Pick up your pencil or your pen, open your laptop … and start writing.
- Use these starts any way you wish, or not at all. You might need to pass them on to others. Remember: Good giving can be good stewardship.
Going along with the metaphor of story seeds and propagation, here is a story start with some true growth potential!
In this February 2012 National Geographic News article, a team of Russian scientists discovered 32,000 year old seeds 124 feet below the Siberian permafrost.
They “… extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants…”
Eventually, these plants flowered and produced seeds of their own. Continue reading in the link below:
While this is super cool on a Botanical Jurassic Park level, there are so many story starts in this article. Here are just a few:
- Look up the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Or, think about the implications of a doomsday vault. Or, read this really cool article entitled Sowing for Apocalypse that showed up in a 2007 edition of The New Yorker.
- Write a poem centered on the word “Thaw”. Or, an acrostic poem using the words Tundra or Siberia.
- How about a devotional using the facts of this story to illustrate the power of Almighty God in thawing frozen hearts and hands?
- I really like this one though – “The new study suggests that permafrost could be a ‘depository for an ancient gene pool”, a place where any number of now extinct species could be found and resurrected, experts say.”
- Playing with this further, a man/woman carries something secret to FILL IN THE BLANK, buries it, then returns home. This man/woman dies before telling anyone the secret. Years later, a random person (who will become your protagonist) finds the latitude and longitude coordinates in an old journal stuffed down in a box of books they buy at an auction. Using modern-day geocaching tools, your protagonist goes on the hunt. What they find could save FILL IN THE BLANK. (Their hometown? Everyone east of the Mississippi River? One child? The President of the United States?) What do they do with this secret and who else is searching for it?
Ready, Set, Write!