On where the ideas come from

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's been nearly a month since my last post, and a lot has been happening.  Unfortunately, not as much writing on The Novel as I would like, but I hope to rectify that this week.  A little more than two weeks ago I left PA for Alabama, spent about two and a half days at my home in Auburn where I met with my dissertation director and academic writing group, then went to visit my parents, then went with some family to Orlando (for our annual trip to Disney World and a visit to Islands of Adventure to see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter [too hot and crowded right now--there are lines to get into the Wizarding World and even lines to get into the gift shops!]), then went to Mobile this past weekend with other family, and now I'm back at my parents' house.  This afternoon I'll head back to Auburn for two weeks, so hopefully I'll be able to get back into a better writing routine during that time.  I've been taking notes and jotting down scenes and lines as they come to me, so I'm itching to get back to Alyssa's story.  I'm also working on a new short story that came to me on Sunday, much to my cousin Brittany's amusement. 

On Sunday I went to the restroom to remove a tag on the new skirt I was wearing.  I had forgotten the tag was there until I was already wearing the skirt (it was hidden inside), and when I ripped it off the first thing I noticed was that it said "Made in India" in large black letters on one side.  These three words stuck out to me (perhaps because I have a bit of an obsession with India and am writing my dissertation about it), but they got me thinking about the fact that our clothes (and most inanimate objects we own) are often better traveled than we are, hailing from distant, exotic (poorer) places we probably will never journey to.  For some reason this (perhaps silly) thought saddened me a little, and I was mentally bombarded by images--a woman cleaning out her closet and noticing the labels in the clothes she is throwing away, all the places she has never been; a bed and breakfast on the coast of southern Maine--Kennebunkport, perhaps--and its annual spring cleaning day after a long, harsh winter; the woman and the inn's owner, her best friend since high school, a gay man who, with the exception of the occasional trip to Boston, hasn't left Maine in ten years.  Within ten minutes these people had names and histories, and the story had a title and an opening.  As I sat scribbling ideas furiously in a notebook, Brittany asked me what I was writing, and I told her I'd had an idea for a short story while I was in the bathroom, and I told her my ideas.  She laughed, of course, trying to make sense of how my mind had jumped from a label in a skirt to a gay man running an inn in Maine.  Of course, I couldn't make sense of it myself, but that's one of the most exciting things about the mind--it makes unexpected connections and sends writers in directions they may have never anticipated but that the stories are better for.

This is the way many of my stories are born--a real life image, such as a weird hairstyle, a cool tattoo, an awesome car, will suddenly spark a new image, of a (fictional) time, place, character, who soon has a history, something to tell, of his or her own, and then I go searching for the best vehicle (story) through which the character can speak.  I love these moments, when the ideas come effortlessly, endlessly, and I relinquish control of the story and just let the character dictate where it goes. 

So now I have two fiction projects on my plate, as well as an ever-growing stack of comps books to read, a book review to write, and an article to revise.  It's going to be a busy summer. :-)

1 comments:

American Puzzle July 31, 2010 at 2:13 PM  

I'm so behind writing my own blog and I'm equally behind reading my friends' blogs - but I'm trying to play catch-up and I love this post. You describe very well the seemingly random leaps our imaginations make - that's the creative spark. Some people have it - maybe born with it? Maybe developed over time? But creative people in general have this tendency, I think. I love the label to short story connection - makes perfect sense to me!!
:D - AMo

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