I’ve just completed the Judy Blume Masterclass and my head is brimming with ideas. I grew up reading her books and it’s a treat to hear her writing secrets. I was amazed that for Blume, our lives and those of the people around us, in news stories, etc, it’s basically open season for story ideas. I am sure she is very careful about how she writes about people. At least in the USA they have their free speech enshrined in the constitution but here in Australia we have the world’s busiest defamation lawyers. I for one am very careful about what I say and write about people.
One of the most common questions writers are asked is ‘Where do you get your ideas.’ As fiction writers, to what extent can we mine our own ‘story’ for story ideas? My first novel, Hotel Deja Vu is a work of pure fiction but quite a few friends and family assumed it was at least semi-biographical. My response was ‘guys, there’s a time portal in a house in Paris…’ I suppose I did loosely base a few characters on people I’ve met over the years and of course, every location, bar the time portal, was a real Parisian landmark.
The women who inspired some of the characters in Hotel Deja Vu probably wouldn’t recognise themselves anyway. (Nobody thinks they’re the villain. We’re all the main character of our story.) My subsequent characters have all been figments of my imagination. I read somewhere once that female authors are more often queried than male authors about the origins of the characters and whether or not they are autobiographical. As though women have no imagination… No woman would ever marry if we lacked imagination! 😉
But if we’d like to do a bit of digging, most of us have any number of fascinating stories. Our family histories are most likely brimming with juicy content. It’s easier if they’re dead, of course! Writing about Great Grandfather’s dalliances, or Great Grandmother’s shameful secrets is easy because they’re no longer around to defend themselves. Or sue us.
Oh, I am currently writing a character based on every bitchy, nasty woman I have ever had to displeasure to know. Her name is June and she’s a piece of work.
From Mae, June, and Paul.
June carved her way through the crowded station dragging her rolling bag like a disobedient child, wheels rocking and kicking as she cut through the crowd. I was four or five paces behind her, then six, then seven. Her height and long hair stood out, even in Paris. I watched the heads turn, they always did, and not just from those who sustained a leg injury from her bag. Stopping to take a breath, I watched the gap between us widen. It was a metaphor for our relationship. She stopped and turned, perhaps looking for me. A shaft of light from the ceiling made a halo around her hair but she was scowling. At forty-four she was still a rare beauty but she was not a nice person.
I hurried to catch up but lost her behind a kiosk. Then I caught a glimpse of her hair as she climbed the stairs to the lounge. She has such beautiful hair. She turned towards the doors, scowling at something or someone and my stomach lurched. Did I really want to catch up to her?
I dreamt of spiders on Friday night. The Jungian dream dictionary confirmed that “lots of tiny spiders can symbolise whatever is festering below the surface” and how it’s out of my control. Spiders can also symbolise ‘a sense of hiding or entrapment that is stunting you or your ability to be truthful.’ Yikes.
I have always felt compelled to hide my true self. Growing up in a deeply religious family can do that to you. I know what’s going on. I have a deeply held difference of opinion to most of my family about the ‘truth’ when it comes to god, the reason we’re here on this plane, and where we might all be headed afterwards. You know, just the light breezy stuff…
Few in my family want to hear my ‘truth’ and it’s hard to feel ‘bothered’ to even speak up when I could just live out my days quietly. I know that a good chunk of my family don’t even like me so I don’t know why I’ve been worried all these years but we have evolved to NEED our families for survival. Dear reader, even that phrase, “we have evolved” would get a few panties in a bunch in my family…
I will be writing about all this at some stage. I hope I don’t have to wait ’til they’re all dead before I do.