Just Where Do You Start?

How people come up with stories fascinates to me. I don’t know why, but I love to hear all the different ways ideas come into the heads of writers/filmmakers/dreamers.

I’ve mentioned before that I have these ghosts of ideas that flutter around in the background, and that when it’s time to go to work on something else I just go to them and find the one that most appeals to me.

Or…I write the one that’s loudest and won’t leave me the fuck alone (thanks, Connor & Oz!).

Most of those ideas, however, are very much character-based. I think and see and hear people first, and situations/settings second.  To be honest, of the ten or so ghosts floating around right now, eight or nine are about who, rather than what or where. Connor and Oz, for example, existed long before dockside itself, and Connor’s need for revenge came only after I had really worked through the details of the character and setting itself.

I wish to hell I knew if that was right or wrong…

I hear and/or read from other people how they come up with ideas, and I occassionally wonder, “what the fuck is wrong with me?!”

I recently spent a scotch-filled evening comparing notes and ideas with a friend who also writes: he had this idea for a society where day-to-day power was patriarchal, but property and money were purely matrilineal. Shit, there’re all kinds of options and opportunities in the tension that idea creates…but when I think about that, what really hits me is who, not some bigger picture of what or why. The counter-idea I threw back at him was about a guy who had won fame and fortune in his twenties…but the story is set when he’s in his 40s or 50s and comes to realize that he’s never really lived since.

Remember that 500-word story/plot summary I once talked about? Yeah, my idea’d be fucked.

The problem is: characters are everything to me. I don’t give two shits if you have the best plot in the world, if your characters suck I’m not going to waste my time reading. I just can’t think that way…

I’m fairly certain that’s why I’ve never really connected with the conspiracy theory story. It’s an idea that started as just that: an idea. It has no strong or real character attached to it, as far as I’m concerned, so I’ve never been able to lose myself in it.

That is, by the way, how I know when I’m working on something that matters to me: I lose myself. I can’t stop, and when I do I can’t wait to start again. I once lost myself in a long writing session and had no idea how much time had passed. The girl I was seeing at the time (the girl who was waiting at the restaurant for an hour because I never answered my phone) was not impressed.

And people wonder why I’m single…

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