Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Where Ideas Come From

     Probably one of the questions a writer hears most often is "Where do you get your ideas?"  For me, the answer is "Everywhere and anywhere!" and I think most writers would say something similar.
      I always enjoy hearing how a story was conceived, how the seed of an idea was germinated in the writer's mind, and became a short story or novel. One of my favorite features of the Exotic Gothic series (check out www.ash-tree.bc.ca/ashtreecurrent.html  to learn more) is the section at the back of the books where each writer briefly summarizes how their particular contribution to the anthology came to be. It may be something provocative or illuminating, but never anything I could have ever guessed. Often, it gives me insight into the writer's life and thinking and adds a new dimension to the story.
      So with that in mind, I want to write a little bit about each of the stories in UNSPEAKABLE and how they came to be.
      I'm not going in the order of the stories in the book, but I'll pick one every few days or every week or so, and I'm going to begin with "Wall of Words."
      Have you ever noticed how words get in the way of communication?  I mean seriously, isn't a huge amount of 'normal' conversation just so much 'spin,' subterfuge, or manipulation? And people who really don't want to talk to each other--who might, in fact, prefer having their liver extracted with molten tongs to engaging in an honest and heart-felt discussion, will use words to block, distort, and reinvent reality every time.
       I knew I had to write "Wall of Words" after a friend and I visited his father in the old man's rural western home. When it was time to leave, the good-bye's were interminable. Not so much 'good-bye' as endless, grunted questions and commentary on gas prices, weather, and intended route home. Twenty seconds worth of talking was spread out over ten minutes, punctuated by grunts, throat clearing, harumphing, 'ayah'-ing, and painfully s-loooo-w speech. It was as if each painfully pronounced syllable were carved from stone and plopped down on the living room carpet to be examined and mulled over, as though what passed between father and son was not so much  communication as a rather circuitous way of avoiding each other.
       From that brief exchange came the idea of an old farmer who despises 'frivolous chatter', a crotchety geezer who envisions words as decorative objects better suited to keeping people away--not to mention hiding some terrible secrets.