Monday, September 21, 2009
Well of Creativity
I read blogs from successful writers like Elizabeth who is always attending the world around her, noting characters and situations and thinking how they would fit into a book. I have to confess though… I don’t normally pay that much attention. I’ve usually got some mad parade in my head that excludes much of that around me.
But is it perhaps genre specific? She writes mystery, a genre that is by necessity about details. My books sometimes HAVE a mystery, but they are not mystery by genre. The current WiP is probably thriller—CONFLUENCE is less easy to pin down.
I’m going to parse out the source of a few of my ideas here and see if there’s a pattern…
CONFLUENCE: the original seed was the Eberwhite Woods. When I first moved to Ann Arbor we lived in an apartment, and on my walk to work I passed these wonderful woods, daydreaming about living in one of the houses that butted up against the woods. My daughter was then five. I’d heard from a realtor that though they were nice woods, there still was occasionally ‘an incident’ (I think a rape, many years ago now) so not to go in there at night. Still nice to live by them? In my wanderings—day time of course, I once saw a sleeping bag tucked in the trees… Woods with a life going on, unseen from the privileged streets.
So that was a real life detail I noticed. Admittedly not until probably the 100th pass… oh, I saw the WOODS before that, but it was well into my daydream of living there that the child/homeless man friendship occurred to me.
The second concrete idea for CONFLUENCE was election signs—4 years later. I know. I’m poky. Realize though, that at that point I thought of ‘author’ as about as possible as ‘empress’ in my listing of jobs I’d like to have. I periodically wrote down ideas, but I hadn’t written anything substantial in more than a decade. But it got me thinking about a community divided by politics, not that Ann Arbor is divided. So far as I can tell, they don’t let Republicans live here. But I could see the POTENTIAL for a divided community.
Enter power walk and the brainchild of Jessie… a teenager living in this split community—her parents protected because adults have the ability to isolate themselves among like-others, but a high school kid? Not so much…
So I suppose for my first completed novel there were a number of observed elements, pulled together through adrenaline.
LEGACY: On the other hand, the first inspiration for the trilogy I am currently working on was a vivid dream that I was sitting at a desk writing (big surprise) and could ‘feel’ that I was being watched… there were children living in my walls… you know dreams… they are wacky… and executed it isn’t as strange as it sounds.
The second inspiration was a blog… drat, I wish I could remember whose (Galen? I think it was)—about finding love letters? Is this your book? But in my warped mind this turned into a runaway teenager seeking human contact at far less risk than the awful real life people she had been encountering. She first steals mail to take to the library as proof of residence so she can get a library card (homeless kids still need to read!) but one of the letters is too tempting not to open… she reads the first love letter of what becomes a life line for her—reading the letters coming in and going out between a high school girl and her Army boyfriend. This was going to be a separate story until connections began to occur to me—the power walks again…
Most of the ideas in my notebook began in dreams—other than the more memoirish things that will have to wait until later in my career to flush out (my own life is more fodder for women’s lit than thriller), but it is looking more and more like I need some real world stimulation to really dive into the plot very heavily…
I’ve talked about my ‘simmering time’ and I think this may be why. An observant person can notice life details with more ease than somebody as disconnected from reality as I usually am.
HOWEVER… I’d love to hear from authors of a variety of genres—especially people who’ve written several books, maybe even in multiple genres—does inspiration come from reliable places? Is it the same across genres? Have you ever resorted to something different because the one you counted on was failing you?