Thursday, April 17, 2008
Fuel for the Story Engine
Do you keep notes? I don't mean like taking notes from lectures or research, but just every day stuff. In other words, do you carry around a notebook and jot things down, like a particular way you feel in single moment of time, or how the afternoon sun creates long shadows and takes you back to when you were a kid playing kick-the-can in the street, or the time your grandmother came riding up the driveway on her new bike and couldn't figure out how the brakes worked.
This is all day-to-day stuff, but some things strike us stronger than others and plant themselves in the memory centers of our brains. It's all grist for the story-mill.
I always delude myself into believing I'll remember stuff. Oh, yeah, who could ever forget the day … Uh, well, I forgot. Or how about the time my son was on his skateboard and, uh, oops. Another lost memory.
I'm not an organized person. Some people think in linear patterns, with neat little folders filed in alpha or numerical order inside their heads. Me? My thought process is more like a collage.
So I'm finally starting to write stuff down. Where I end up storing it is another question for another post. I think in colors and pictures, then translate them through words so that I can use them. My recall is mostly visual.
I was visiting with a writer friend yesterday, a morning coffee date (2 hours!) spent talking about everything writing-related, including her new book coming out this September. She's not a genre writer. She writes literary fiction, which I'm very curious about. Her stories aren't so much plot as they are character pastiches, so I asked her how she came up with her stories.
She bases them, in part, on people she's known and worked with, not one them a member of her family. She admits to not being a social person, but she's an observant one and everyone who's interesting stands to become fuel to drive her story engine. Though she doesn’t use her family in her fiction, her adult daughter claims her latest book has a lot of their family in it. This floored my friend because for one thing, there are no family units as such in her book. But elements here and there were subconsciously taken from her life and put in the story. I think that's very cool.
There's so much good stuff to take from real life. My husband is a good example. I could create a dozen different characters from him alone. One character based on just him would never be believable. You know what they say about truth and fiction.
Do you use bits of real life in your stories? Do you write them down in a log or journal? Are any of your characters fashioned out of people you know? Or parts of people you know?