Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Where Ideas Come From

Today on one of the forums I visit, I was accused of using the chat there are fodder for sexual fantasies. While it's laughable, because of the nature of conversations in that forum, and because of who I am as a person, I guess it points out that people have no idea where writers get their stories.

In my entire life, there's only been one snippet of conversation I've overheard that I've wanted to use in a story. At a racetrack, two young boys - maybe ten or twelve.

BOY 1: How much longer you stuck here for?

BOY 2: *shrugs* Dad's down to his last five bucks, so it's either a beer or a bet, and we're out of here.

BOY 1: Unless he wins.

BOY 2: *rolls his eyes* I shoulda asked him for money for food when we got here. I'm starving.

Now that's dialog that can drive a story. Real life isn't usually so raw and exposed in succint snippets like that. And I don't typically start from a quip or a piece of dialog. I begin with an abstract idea, like exploring identity, family, regret, or the nature of fantasy and work from there. For erotic pieces, the sex comes last, because it has to reveal the characters, and you can't reveal until you create. Sometimes stories are driven be a call for submissions. I've sworn off writing for submission for a while though. I've never been remotely tempted to use a forum thread for a story - mostly because they're bits of commentary on pop culture without a lot of substance. Fun? Hell yes. Sex fantasy stuff? Hardly. Unless you get turned on by a putdown fight between Madonna and Mariah Carey fans. Or by a discussion about why a pair of shoes is simply wrong. Or last night's American Idol.

I'm not writing at all right now. I'm reading. While I'm in my reading cycle, I go through at least five books a week. That lasts about six weeks, then I'm burned out.

When I return to writing, I won't "accidentally" lift entire passages from things I've read, as happened in a recent famous case of plagiarism. I wouldn't dream of it- any more than I would think of taking the private lives of people I know socially and use that as fodder for fantasies. I feel that's morally wrong. But of course, no one ever asks. They simply accuse.

I wish they'd come up with something more original than a poisoned pen letter. Or at least have the guts to put their real name to their accusations. But those types never do, do they? Ah well. Back to the forum.

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