Monday, July 25, 2005

Where Stories Come From

The origin of stories is a topic that comes up a lot in writer's groups.

Some people call inspiration a muse. Not to knock them, but I think I've seen too many plays where a velvet and fringe draped diva in a turban emotes about her muse to take that seriously. But stories come from somewhere. Even though I've written many, I'll admit that it's still a bit of mystery to me.

I live in LA and spend a lot of time in my car. Not all of the work of writing is in the typing, so I can sit in traffic and still be writing. If I'm actively working on a novel or a story, that's my time to puzzle through plot points or develop characters. If I don't have a story, or if I need distance from a current one, I let my mind wander.

Since I write erotica, one of my favorite questions to pose is, "What's hot?" Almost always the scene that pops in my mind is, as Kate Dominic puts it in her great collection of short stories, "Any 2 People Kissing." Or three. Or more. I also like people holding hands, especially same sex couples, because I'm awed by fearless love.

Other sights that make my pulse race: The brush of a hand across a lover's shoulder. That special, knowing laugh between a couple. Glimpses into their private world that show tenderness. Not overt sex, but sexuality. If I can capture that in a story, I know it will be hot.

Sometimes I get flashes of an idea that are so sketchy that they can't stand alone. I mentally file those away. Many times, I see my characters in terms of colors or seasons. It's the impressions that matter with those quick flashes.

I think, "What am I seeing?"
The end of an affair? Blue and purple. Winter trees. Grass that crunches underfoot.
The beginning? Green and yellow. Summer skirts. Camellias. Water.
My personal favorite- rekindled attraction. Red. Cozy blankets. An Autumn snap in the air. The scent of bushels of winesap apples in a wood shed.

Later, while reading a call for submissions or just by accident, these flashes will fall back into my thoughts and expand. Maybe they won't be the way I initially saw them, but those will be the feelings that anchor the story.

But where does it come from? My imagination, I suppose. And from life around me. Or maybe there is a muse whispering in my ear. If she'd only make herself visible, I could drive in the carpool lane.

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