Friday, September 12, 2008

Where do stories come from?

I was recently in a discussion about where inspiration comes from for writing.  Is it something that you sit down and plot out.  Draw outlines.  Timelines.  Notes. Have all of your characters been fleshed out and are they ready to go before the story starts.

Well, maybe many writers do just that.  Perhaps even most writers do.  But to be honest, that's just not how it happens for me.

All of the stories I have thus far written were based on either spontaneous images that popped into my mind or dreams that I had.  The writing just flowed from that point.

For the drafts I just sat in front of the computer and typed what come out of my finger tips.  I would actually end up running out of time to write with story still spilling from mind.  On the occasion that I got stuck on a particular plot or detail, I'd go outside take a walk for a mile or two and by the time I got back the story started rolling again.

In other words, the stories come to life practically on their own.

What caused that to happen?  I would contribute it to at least three factors. 

1. A boring childhood.
      -I grew up in a family whose primary activities were work and television.  Work was whatever you did all day, and after we'd plop down and watch TV until bedtime, with a break for dinner at 5.  Little in the way of extra-curricular activities (I did do scouting for a few years, once week or so for a couple of hours) until my high school years when I joined the theater group.

2. Insomnia
     -since I was a little kid I have often had a hard time fallign asleep or staying asleep at night.  Many hours of my childhood were spent staring into the darkness.

3. a vivid imagination
     -as a six year old I remember going to bed at 8pm and laying there listening to the voices from the television in the living room.  I watched in my mind every episode of Columbo, The 6-Million Dollar Man, and Hawaii 5-0.  Then I would act out my own episodes after my parents went to bed  at 11.

By the time I hit high school I could do improvisational acting at the drop of a hat. Give me a character, and a scene...or even just a prop or an empty stage and I could give you thirty minutes of whatever came to mind.  I even did a bit of standup and improv comedy for a couple years as an adult, but never really took it far...not a good family lifestule for the most part.

The improv acting continues today. I regularly do shows for my church organization of about a hundred and fifty teens.  They are monologue acts telling the story of Biblical or historical characters.  I seldom use a script, and have few props, usually just a grey wool blanket and a walking stick for ancient characters, a chair or an article of clothing (hat or umbrella, etc) for modern characters.  I pretty much just wing it. I do of course already know the story and have read it many times to be familiar with the characters, but as any actor will tell you the story or book is not a script.

My writing and my acting seem to come from the same fountain. Both are spontaneously created entities that come to life and flesh themselves before my very eyes, or the eyes of my audience.

Is natural as in genetic? Probably not.

Is it natural as in a product of environment?  I'd say so.

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