Friday, December 18, 2009

Link by Link

A good ol' fashioned topic here: inspiration.

I just finished reading a collection of stories, Stranger Things Happen, by Kelly Link, and it was a collection to love. Odd and strange and original and quirky and just a little bit haunting, the sort of stories that stick with you after you've finished them. Like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth, you're gonna have to pick at them for awhile. A lick here and there, a prod with your tongue, a few thoughts of how chocolate would go so nice with this...

But what I found most interesting about my response to these stories was that element of inspiration, of that sudden need to write. Not to emulate, per se, but to make something, to fashion something new and wholly unique out of all those old verbs, adjectives and nouns. Dust off those familiar words and make them shiny again.

It makes me think of stories as links in a chain, bound together, all individual and yet all connected. Stories reaching out, sparking and starting new stories in new minds. It's like that image of Michelangelo's on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the hand of God touching the hand of man, the spark of life and creation transferred onward. And yet here we have the image repeated again and again and again, a chain of stories from a hundred thousand minds, playing off each other, sparking and sparkling, an interwoven fabric of links tunneling backward through time, from mind to mind, charting the long and ecstatic course of inspiration.

And I wonder what it is that makes for that inspiration. Not all stories do it, not even all stories I love. I might find a story great as a reader without it touching me as a writer. But certain writers, certain stories, are bright with that current, as if storing up an electrostatic charge just for me. Waiting... waiting for me to touch the doorknob (the little currents all alive), waiting for me to open the door on that particular world.

The strangeness of Stranger Things Happen is part of it. Stories, and realities, bent a little askew. Different. I want to capture that difference in turn. Or, rather, I want to capture not Kelly Link's differences but my own. I want to swallow up the energy of these creations and use it, an electric boy plugging himself into a new world. See my fingers glow as I type...

So I'd like to turn this idea back on you. Are you inspired by other stories or writers, and, if so, what are the particular qualities that inspire you? Is there some recurring quality that you find charges your writing batteries?

7 comments:

L. T. Host said...

I'd have to say yes. My first novel was inspired by a scandinavian folk tale. My second, celebrity gossip. My third, indirectly from another book by a different author. An older, less-known book. I felt the premise was great but was sorely disappointed with the execution. And a few weeks later when I had the idea for my third, I realized it had to have come from that book, even though they're only mildly similar.

Susan Quinn said...

I would love to see the reality-askew that your glow-in-the-dark fingers come up with!

I might find a story great as a reader without it touching me as a writer.

I agree. The stories that inspire me as a writer are the ones that touch that thing inside me that makes my mind spin and think and begin to conjure ideas - ideas that become stories that suddenly demand to be told. They are pushy that way, those stories. Inspiration comes from a story with an insightful comment on the human condition, or one that puts people in a situation where they have to make a profound choice.

Why did they choose that? My mind spins.

Then my fingers itch to get back to the raw storytelling. Not the editing, or the fine-tuning that also has to happen. But the essence - what does the story mean?

So, are you charged up and writing?

Ink said...

Well, I just finished a big edit on the Great Novelish Beast. And I have a bunch of revisions to do on other projects. But I'm also planning out a few skewed short stories which I hope I find the time to write soon... but time is at a premium these days. Must forage for some more where I can.

Taryn Tyler said...

Certainly there are those books that re-spark everything that made me want to write in the first place (usually with their subject matter more than the writing itself) and there are those pieces are . . . almost perfect and then set my mind spinning about how I could write something similar and carry it through differently (though usually the 'differently' gets bigger and bigger with each draft) but sometimes I read a book that is just so wonderful that all I want to really do is look at it and be glad that it exists. Because I know that even if my stories might do that for someone else I'll never be able to enjoy them quite the same way. I'll never be able to see them through a reader's eyes and I'm glad that someone else can write a Masterpiece.
That may have gotten a little off subject. . .

Ink said...

Sort of an interesting off subject, though, Taryn. Might be a whole post in that idea about the difference between how we and readers will appreciate our stories. Very interesting, indeed. And I've been thinking about it a bit lately because I think it's pretty relevant for the revision process.

Bookworm1605 said...

I am definitely inspired by others' works--both the substance they contain and sometimes what they lack. When I read a story that touches me I have an intense desire to create something of my own that inspires similar emotions. But often my strongest (and strangest) compulsions to write come from wonderfully weird tangents that could have happened in my favorie stories. I just read in Weird Tales that Lucasfilm authorized someone to write a horror story based in the Star Wars universe--zombies on an haunted Star Destroyer. Someone pinch me...

The Rejectionist said...

Oh good, we can still be friends.