Katie Williams Recommends...

“Writing is about finding a way in. And like in some hoary old fable, I must gather three items to be permitted entry. Here are the rules: 1. The items can be anything. They may be small things: an image, a snippet of dialogue, perhaps the twitch in a character’s cheek. Or they may be large things: an action, a situation, or the largest thing of all, a question. 2. There must be precisely three of them. Two items is too few, and four is too many. 3. The items must resonate with one another, and with me. 4. When I figure out how to connect these items, the story begins to emerge. An example: My novel Tell the Machine Goodnight began with the image of a severed finger, a character with the hobby of making lifelike models of extinct animals, and the idea of a machine built to prescribe happiness. I call this collage. My husband calls it curation. Describing the process here, I see that it is much like the game my mother plays with impatient children in restaurants, where she draws three floating shapes on a paper placement—say, a narrow triangle in the bottom corner, a circle above, and a line rising through the middle—and asks, ‘Can you make these into a picture?’”
—Katie Williams, author of Tell the Machine Goodnight (Riverhead Books, 2018)