Saturday, January 24, 2009

Story Seeds

Anything your senses offer as inspiration for story is always a good thing, but I find next to music that art, texture and other tactile material objects often sow the seeds of what grow into my stories.

Our blogpal Raine Weaver mentioned fortune cookies in her SFC post here about the need for simplification. I save all my fortunes, and sometimes use them sometimes in my altered art/philosophy journals, like this one:



Pulling out that old journal made me wonder if you could tell a story entirely in fortune cookie fortunes. I sat at the table after dinner with the four hundred or so slips I've collected over the years and started arranging them like you do magnetic poetry. I'd have to come up with original fortunes of my own, but they could work as dialogue for an oracle, I think (I'm still mulling it over.)

A few months ago I was looking through some quilt magazines and spotted a photo of this incredible piece by German artist Britta Ankenbauer*:

Scrap City, created by mixed media fiber artist Britta Ankenbauer

I don't know why but seeing this art quilt hit me like a sledgehammer. I responded to this piece on a dozen levels, including a storytelling perspective, which had me jotting down an outline of the city that I saw in the art. That grew into a country, and then a planet, and ultimately became one of the settings for my final StarDoc novel.

I've always wanted to write a piece of fiction about the elements in this photo I took a couple of years ago:



This is more abstract and definitely more personal (the real story behind the image is over on the photoblog here.) I'm not ready to write this one yet, so it's still percolating in the back of my head. When I do I suspect the story will include a minor war between gardeners and artists.

Most of the time we writers maintain a pretty healthy stock of story seeds -- if they were veggies and flowers I could supply a couple hundred farms on my own -- but I still think it's a good idea to keep yourself open to the random chance of inspiration. When you respond to something personally, you know if you can convert that energy and passion into words that it's going to shine through in the work, and better yet, no other writer will have anything like the beauty you grow.

*To see more of Britta Ankenabauer's amazing textile art, visit her web site here.

5 comments:

  1. Pulling out that old journal made me wonder if you could tell a story entirely in fortune cookie fortunes. I sat at the table after dinner with the four hundred or so slips I've collected over the years and started arranging them like you do magnetic poetry.

    Okay, now I feel a little guilty--and intrigued, lol.
    Hope you'll share it with us if you do!

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  2. I love the first picture, with your journal and the fortune cookies! It really does seem to hold a lot of inspiration potential in the make-up of the piece. I love how watercolors can seem to speak to me (and obviously others) like that.

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  3. The glass works of Dale Chihuly hit me the way that quilt hit you. The first time I saw one of his exhibits was an accident--I was at the museum to see a completely different thing--but the moment I saw his glass, my imagination went pow!

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  4. Your tale of gardener versus artist sounds interesting. My mum was a florist but she loved things to look natural. While sorting out my email inbox this mornign I came across a photo taken by my Dad three months after mum died. It is of a red rose in the garden. The photo is poor quality but the rose itself is beautiful against the dark green ivy background. That plant never usually flowered. Mum hated the spraying and colouring of flowers and I must say I dont like getting flowers. I much prefer them to stay in the ground. Nature is such a wonderful artist. I saw my Mum as the natural artist with her floristry.
    I am struggling at the moment to keep ideas in my head. I dismiss them if they dont suit my current venture. My writing tutor said that you can get inspiration from anything. Now I see things or hear things and filter it out if it does not fit with what I am doing. I know there will be inspiration out there when I need it again. Had an idea for a romance too. May start that but have too much going on. Sorry rambling. Just some ideas that have been floating about.

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  5. I would never come up with writing a story based on fortune cookie slips. I love the profound statement on the front of your journal though. I wanted to believe in fortune cookies when I was young and idealistic. Unfortunately, you're statement is right. They lie. They always lie...

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