All That Surrounds Me

All sorts of things have triggered something in my head and gotten the idea rolling, then the idea takes hold and I go along and start working it out as I mentioned here. But what kinds of things trigger that moment of inspiration? I’m glad you asked because I was going to if you didn’t. Wait a second…

Tune in next week for more X! Minus! One!

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of Old Time Radio. Especially the fantasy/horror shows like The Shadow, Lights Out, Suspense, Inner Sanctum and the list goes on and on. Science fiction shows like X-Minus One are in regular rotation on the iPod. You can find tons of these shows on the Internet Archive site. But the reason these things affect me so much is that they’re so earnest, so in the moment and flying by the seat of their pants and on a tight schedule. In the case of X-Minus One the stories were direct adaptations of now-classic SF from the pulps that were on the newsstand that month.

While I’m on the subject, I’m also a big fan of The Bob Edwards Show on satellite radio. I’ve got more ideas written down from listening to that show on a daily basis than almost any other interview-type program I’ve heard or watched. I keep a spiral bound notebook with me during the day and that’s what snatches of ideas and phrases go into. There are probably six or seven novels worth of ideas in there.

Depeche Mode made an exceptional music video for the single Wrong. It’s a couple of years old now, but it’s a beautiful short story told inside a three and a half-minute song. Go watch it, I’ll wait.

Now tell me you don’t wonder how that guy ended up in the car. Who did he piss off that badly that he ended up like that? I like to think that the video was a nod to the 2008 film The Dark Knight because this seems like the kind of thing the Joker might do. The other music video that really affected me was Mike + the Mechanics’ Silent Running. Remember it was the 80s and videos were being used rather heavily to promote films. Among my friends we kept wondering what the movie was that the song had come from. It wasn’t any kind of promo, though, it was just taking the art form of the storytelling video in a new direction that would culminate in the DM video 20+ years later.

Gatewood's Olan Sun

Visual art has a real effect on me, too. I’m a huge fan of anything that combines words and pictures like comics, even Facebook memes and some abstract paintings from artists like William Gatewood. But then the fantasy paintings of Roger Dean and Frank Frazetta have inspired me to write stories to include the settings or scenes these fine commercial artists had in their heads and translated to canvas in vivid color. Even Russian propaganda posters (here’s a great gallery you can buy from if you like) can bring to mind a story possibility.

I’ve been to local productions of stage plays that have caused me to start thinking. One in particular, Picasso at the Lapin Agile featuring Einstein (him again!) and Picasso on the very edge of possibly their greatest achievements. How could one not come out of that play inspired to explore the thoughts and ideas that are planted there? Same with Angels in America and so many other plays that are packed with capital ‘I’ Ideas.

A writer is open to all forms of input, to everything that can spark an idea that will rub up against a thought and become Something Else. The only thing that holds one back from being a capital ‘W’ Writer is not being open to the things that will take him to the stories inside.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at www.jasonarnett.com

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