Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Wilde's West and An App for That"

As I imagine it happens this way to all writers, ideas for scenes and stories originate from not only personal experiences in the lives of friends and family, but also from historical or contemporary events in science/technology, politics, economics, etc..  Even objects or settings can ignite us up some thoughtful and poetic ideas for plots. A drought-sapped creek makes for historical drama or apocalyptic tales. An emptied arena inclined to echoes after a major defeat makes for – well, any turning of age story, I imagine. Even a Starbucks cup scratched up in fingernail trails…angst for any story. In my case, I have generated dozens of such ideas from the world around me; ideas that I have extracted from the visual, the spiritual, and the virtual worlds that involve or present to me in some way; ideas that I have jotted down on tea-stained scraps scattered across my desk or keyed in their digital equivalents hidden in layers of folders on my laptop.

I know. This is all in the ‘duh’ category. All writers stockpile ideas from sparks generated at odd times, from simple or strange interactions or specific observations that can all happen in milliseconds but will summon a character or map out the perfect plot. But, my question to all of us is, do we take this talent for granted? The ability to create story from just about anything? 

I think I do, though not consciously. I’m used to doing it, I guess, so perhaps I don’t treat it as ‘special’. But it is special, isn’t it; to conjure up an interaction or to invent trysts that may never have happened in real life? For example, the talented, loud, and proud dandy Oscar Wilde touring the rough and wild Old West is ripe with possibilities for lots of stories (and humor and philosophy). I can imagine all kinds of scenes and plots...well. Let's move on.

As writers, we can create an entire story based on an overheard conversation, or a grandfather’s war experience, or a smashed snow globe.... Anything objective can be made subjective, and vice versa, with our talent. Any action has potential to melt, explode, differentiate & transform, maim, or kill in worlds we create over years of story revision after revision. We can create correlations where none actually exist; correlations that could be, but were not, but…yes, could quite possibly be a possibility!

We create new worlds from the old. Who thinks of writing a story about a runaway slave after visiting the Falls of The Ohio, or write a 23rd Century romance that takes place in Vacanza, Italy based on the scent of freshly synthesized basil? We can do that! We’re magicians who make things happen. We can utilize our magic either through the black practice or the white practice and, hopefully, a little of both! 

Or, is this less magical, less a talent of ours, and more intellectual, more an awareness that life is fascinating, yet finite? Are we writers just more aware of the here and the now and the knowing that everything we do, everything we experience, and each rock we kick down the street has original meaning – even if no one else gets it? Does a story lie behind every interaction or transaction, every tossed coffee cup, and every unopened letter? We invent correlations so that action happens. Can the aspiration to create correlations so-that-action-happens be explained away scientifically? Can the desire to want others to read them be recognized psychologically? The need, spiritually? The world is ours to manipulate, and selfishly, too. We extract from natural and historical events and write the story because it made us laugh, made us proud, made us cry, made us transform. We write to get it down before anyone else can because I thought of it first, dammit! 

We are ALL OF THE ABOVE. Which reminds me…

My fellow writers, I kindly ask you to not extract any ideas from Oscar Wilde's historic shenanigans anytime soon. I'm jotting down some tidbits on that subject matter and have some cool story ideas. You see, I downloaded an app on my cell for free eBooks and went straight to the classics where I discovered Dorian Gray, which led me to Google Oscar Wilde and learn about his take on life, sex, and dandyism. Hardly an inspirational way to write a story, I app...but one must not judge how one gets ideas. 

Hey! Did you know Oscar Wilde toured the mining towns of the West one year and…oh. I told you that already. Yes. Stay away from all that.


  1. Ah, yes, the importance of writing, whatever. I only wish I had as many ideas floating around!!

  2. By the way, how do you keep those swirling ideas organized?

  3. David, in response to your first comment, you do have lots of ideas in your head. You just apply something called a J.U.N.K filter. Wish I had one of those! And how do I keep everything organized? Honestly, only through Windows folders duplicated across two computers and saved from time to time on flash drives (3 of those). As far as my notes...? I keep all of my notebooks, but interestingly, I rarely go back to them. Often enough, I'll remember what I had written down, or at least the idea of it. My cluttered way of writing certainly needs organization. Hmm... Scrivener?

  4. Scrivener just might be a good tool as it let's you set up projects and then upload things into a "research" folder, including pdfs, photos, webpages, and maybe even audio clips. Bottom line, a great organizational tool.