Sunday, September 7, 2008

Where Do Stories Come From

This week I read a book by Thomas Tryon called "The Wings of Morning." It looked like an intellegent historical romance set at the turn of the century but it was actually a bizzare tale about the horrible destroying effects of true love and how most people that survive this life are lucky because they never experience it, settling for something far less.

Later I looked at a biography of the author's life. He was an disenchanted Hollywood actor who specialized in horror and mystery. He never married and preferred men. Suddenly I totally understood the truth he was attempting to portray because he really believed it, but I didn't. For me love was not what I expected but something a million times more deep, complex and satisfying than simple attraction, which this writer mistook for "true love." So I sat down and outlined a modern story to rebutt his well written but totally inaccurate novel. I can't wait until I finish my next two projects because I actually think its going to be pretty good.

After I sat in front of my six page outline, I thought that it was interesting that this book would inspire me to organize a story. Which got me wondering where writers come up with the basis for their books. Looking around I found an article from Dan Brown (not THE Dan Brown.) He is a columnist for the Free London Press and he said that writer's need to be sponges. If you are running out of ideas you have to read, watch TV or live a little. He also said that in a pinch you can find what other writers are writing and take an opposite view.

So I suppose the foundation of my story is not that original then. But he also said that is only the seed or kernel that gets you started and then you find yourself evolving from there. Hah, so it is original.

Stephen King has apparently written a book "On Writing" that tells his experience, which again often came from events in his life, albeit shifted, expanded or totally twisted. When I was a teenager his books creeped me out but they were compelling.

Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite writers, says that her stories usually begin with a what if scenario. What if a boy left standing after a botched suicide pact was accused of murder? What if a little girl developed an imaginary friend who turned out to be God? What if an attorney didn't think that the legal system was quite good enough for her own child? Then she begins researching and it morphs from there.

Stephanie Meyers said the origins of "Twilight" began as a dream. It is also interesting that JK Rowlings said that Hermione was actually alot like herself as a child- a know-it-all who was afraid of failure. Well, if she had a crystal ball she never would have had to worry about that.

I imagine on some level all writers insert a part of themselves into their books that's what makes them compelled to write them. But what makes them worth reading is a whole different matter. Okay, so I'm easily hooked into a story if you have left me hanging with a character that I like and I want to know what's going to become of them but 95% of the books I read end with me feeling empty or disappointed. For me the test of a really good book is when the truth at the center of the story is honest and enlightening. Those are the books that stay with me and make me want to read them again. And, I guess, that is what I'm trying to create.

1 comment:

Rebecca Talley said...

I think ideas come from everywhere--my problem is finding enough time to write about all the ideas I have :).