Thursday, August 28, 2008

They all have stories

One upon a time, your mother probably told you not to listen to gossip. Or to spread it, either.

What did you do?

If you're a nice person (and I have no reason to doubt it), you didn't spread any malicious rumors. But did you walk away when you heard juicy ones? Did you look the other way when you noticed body language that contradicted what was commonly known -- or belied the way things should have been?

Of course not. Because whatever your age was, you were a writer. And everyone, and everything around you told a story.

One of the most common questions authors are asked is "where do you get your ideas?"

We might as well answer -- where do we not?

Anyone takes a look at the grumpy expression of a neighbor--co-worker--classmate, and most people will think: "what's her (his) deal today?"

A writer will think: "I wonder what his (her) story is? What drove this person to such a bad mood that she (or he) can't hide it from the world? What traits of character make up someone who feels the need to spread their mood around? How would I show that in a story?"

If you're a visual artist, you walk around noticing details of shape and color and line. If you're a fashion designer, you notice draping and color and, again, line, but with a different emphasis. If you're a writer, you notice all of that, but instead of thinking how to render it all in pencil, color, or the drape of cloth, you start looking for the one word that will convey the essence of that single instant when you experienced the precise and fleeting emotion that stopped you.

Is it harder? I don't know. Easier? I don't know either. Is it like being a poet? I still don't know!

Everything is a story for me. It's the story of the teller as much as the story of the told. It's the story of the artist as much as the tale in the image. It's Vermeer painting the image, it's the brush that touched the canvas and the hand that held the brush, as much as the colors and the light and the shadows. It's the wealthy patron commissioning the work as much as the subject of the painting. It's the person who sat for the portrait as much as the image in the frame.

A trip through time. A passage into a different world. A glimpse into another person's mind.

A story. A tale. A marvel.

And going home to write a story of my own.

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