Stories lead to stories. Or Where Popes Shop

When I first began to write, I wondered how to come up with story ideas. My friend and fellow writer Sue Careless patiently explained that story ideas were “everywhere!” If you walk by a store window and look at the merchandise, she said, there is a story not just about what is for sale, but about who created the display and how they did it. Who is the window dresser? How do they do what they do? Why do they do it? Where did they get their cool stuff?

I remembered Sue’s advice when I read “Men of the cloth: outfitting popes for two centuries” in The Globe and Mail. The story, a mini-profile of the family owned company where popes get many of their vestments (since 1789!), is a great example of one of the many stories that are within a Story.

It’s a spin-off and a peeling back of the story onion to see what is inside. The Big Story, of course, is who is coming down the pipe as the new pope. But a freelancer who wants to be published often and widely will dig down and find the spin-offs. The story describes the shop windows where vestments hang in three different sizes, ready for the small, medium or large pope to choose which one he wants.

Like a lot of great stories, I bet this one started with: “I wonder….” and look where it ended up. On the front page of The Globe and Mail.


2 thoughts on “Stories lead to stories. Or Where Popes Shop”

  1. Hi Karen,
    I have followed your writing career since our paths crossed briefly in 2007. This peeling back of the story onion is so true. I write a column and the occasional editorial for my local newspaper, the Orono Weekly Times, and I often find that stories are generated from an offshoot of a bigger story. Just taking a sideways look at a bigger story and trying to find the local twist to it can bring up some interesting articles.

    What I would like to do, and frankly have no idea how to achieve, is to get a pipeline going of places I can get paid for the articles that I generate. Targeting is obviously important, but publications that are willing to pay writers for their work seem to be the exception rather than the rule these days.

    Am I right in that assessment do you think, or is there a strategy I need to grasp to be more successful?

    I would welcome any thoughts and advice you might have to give.

    All the best


    1. Hi Tracy, thanks for being in touch. That’s a good question. I don’t think that there is a trend to not pay writers (I sure hope not!), although there have always been publications who don’t pay. A writer needs to decide if the exposure is worth it; if it might lead to a paid assignment; if their passion for the subject and opportunity to be published is more important than being paid. It does sound like you need a strategy. Without knowing more about what you write about and what your goals are I probably can’t give any more advice than that. But give me a call. I’d be happy to have a chat if you think that would be of help to you.

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