Over-rated Origins

Big ideas and plotting have always been a struggle in my writing. I envision worlds and characters and interactions with ease; sentences and paragraphs come naturally from my fingertips. But climax and plot and sequence? These emerge slowly if at all.

For years, alas, I thought that I was condemned to writing only of my own limited experiences, using my quotidian existence as source material.  But rarely are happy lives the stuff of good novels (see:  Tolstoy), and I am blessed with a happy life.

Eventually I figured out that if source materials are good enough for Shakespeare, they’re good enough for me!  So now I mine ideas from the wealth of the texts around me.  I love newspapers, especially the tiny columns of human interest stories that run down the margins, giving two or three sentences of a story–a kernel big enough to build around, but small enough to prevent imprisoning the story in reality.  A few years ago, I read about a young man taking the bibles out of a church before burning it to the ground, as a form of protest against who knows what.  Despite numerous google searches, that story has never resurfaced, but it lives on at the core of two of my three NaNoWriMo novels.

I also find ideas in the biblical, Old Testament book of Judges.  Now, my dad is a pastor and my origins are deeply religious, even fundamentalist.  In response to this, I strive to embrace the good parts of my heritage of piety and reverence for holy texts, and bring that into my writing.  And the book of Judges is as good as it gets for source tales–sex, lies, and videotape (metaphorical, anyway).  It portrays an anarchic society, or very nearly anarchic, a society making up the rules as it goes along. A society dependent on deeply flawed leaders with limited authority to help them discern justice from injustice.  The most interesting society possible, in other words.  I find ideas in those lives of sinning saints and saintly sinners.  Eventually, once the stories of the judges are exhausted, perhaps I’ll find another holy text to mine–but for now, I draw storied guidance from their faith and follies.

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