A Word In Edgewise: Closet of the Curiosities: Writing Micro Seminar I
After a reading of my novel, M-o-t-h-e-r Spells Murder, I was asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” There’s not really a formula, nor are ideas are pulled fresh minted from the author’s nether orifice, nor are they mysterious gifts bestowed only on writers. I believe that everything you’ve ever experienced, whether you’re gay or straight, of whatever gender, is stored in a kind of “Experiences Closet,” that with practice can be regularly accessed to your advantage in many creative areas.
A successful piece of fiction depends in part on how well the writer was able to mine his or her experiences and the specific application of that bit of the self to the text. Of course, there is the matter of the order within your particular closet. Some tidy minds store memories–belaboring this analogy–like garments hung neatly by color or style, while others–I am of this subset–maintain a Fibber McGee mare’s nest with a place for anything and everything … someplace.
Nevertheless, the important thing for the creator seeking a fresh idea or springboard is to treat one’s experience repository the way one should treat a GLBT In-Hiding Closet: Throw open the door; let fresh air and sunlight in and the ideas out. Use your fragments of experience with the same joyous abandon as you did your childhood Lego® blocks and bricks.
An example? I want a new character to have a pet. I remember beloved cats, so he will have a cat (unless he needs to have a dog, but that’s another seminar). What kind of cat? I like short-haired grays. Male? Female? Indifferent to me personally, so I tailor it to the character’s personality. Male. Name? Well, I’m a Francophile, so I made it French; the owner’s morals are a bit questionable, so I chose Louche. Add details as needed, and voilà! My protagonist (who went through his own naming process) now owns a large, tattered, gray tomcat named Louche. Another’s closet would yield an altogether different cat, perhaps a tabby named Schrödinger.
The point of this mini-seminar is that as a writer you have a greater wealth of material to mine than you thought; a lifetime of experience, and no excuse to lament, “I don’t have any ideas!”