Working out a good story

I plan to submit an essay to Creative Nonfiction‘s “Southern Sin” issue.  The guidelines are pretty broad – most importantly, the topic must somehow involve the south and sin – so I’ve been struggling for a while to find a good topic.  I’ve especially been trying to avoid the mistake of trying to align a story with a concept, along the lines of the proverbial square peg/round hole. I have found that the best way for a freelancer to find a story is to poke your nose in people’s business and let the story come to you, rather than starting with a concept and trying to find something or someone to fill in the details.

I thought for a while that a story about modern-day witches (as in neopagan/Wiccan practice) might be interesting, but the idea is a good example of trying to force a topic to fit an assignment. For the story to link “the craft” with sin, I would have to go out looking for people who think Wicca is sinful, and then I’d be doing a research paper, and furthermore I might never find a way to reflect the southern aspect of the assignment.

Houston witches might have interesting stories, but to find them I’d start with a little enterprise reporting by going to the Magick Cauldron bookstore in Montrose and asking what’s up with witches these days.  In other words, poke my nose in witches’ business and wait for the story to come to me.  And I may well do that, just not for this project.

Back to the Creative Nonfiction essay.  I started a Google search a few nights ago and came up with a couple super-interesting guys who I think will end up being the subject of my essay.  Their story is timely, it’s compelling, it’s about sin and it’s in a southern city that is in the bible belt but also has an openly gay mayor (whose election prompted predictions that Houston faced doom).  This conflict is at the heart of the story.  I hope to talk with them soon.

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