You could ask any writer. I’m sure they could tell you how they begin their writing process.
Maybe inspiration strikes like lightning — the entire story, right there in their mind, neatly wrapped with a bow. Maybe they have a nugget of an idea and begin to expand from there. Maybe they have a notion of an interesting main character and build the plot around him or her.
For me, it starts with place.
The most crucial aspects to the stories that I write regard the development of the characters and the setting. Many authors would disagree with this. They would argue that plot development is key, and from there you need to create characters and place around it. To each his own, I guess.
Northern Michigan is where I am inspired. It is far underrepresented in literature, in my opinion. Sure, you can read Hemingway’s The Torrents of Spring, or Steve Hamilton’s Alex McKnight series, or Mitch Albom’s The First Phone Call From Heaven, or Jim Harrison’s True North, or Travis Mulhauser’s Sweetgirl. For the most part, though, authors tend to stay away from the region. That is something I am intent on changing.
Though most of my writing is set in northern Michigan, I do not consider myself a regional author. Any issues you can find in cities across the country you can find in northern Michigan as well. I simply prefer to explore and interrogate these issues through the fictional lens of northern Michigan. There are passionate people. There are endless lakes and rivers and rolling hills and thick forests. There are hard times and triumphs, and there are laughs and tears.
Everyone needs a place to clear their mind, a respite from the troubles weighing us down. For me, nothing washes away the stresses of the world like the northern shores of the Great Lakes.
And once my own struggles disappear, I write.