Where do my story ideas come from?
Let me see …..
I think ….
I have just received the Teachers Notes for Olive of Groves with the usual request to add a little on my motivation/inspiration for writing the book.
Writers are often asked to explain their motivation for writing a story or where the idea came from. I do my best to answer such questions but one might just as easily respond to the question, ‘Which came first - the chicken or the egg?’ … or even harder still, ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’
For me, a story often develops over many, many years. It’s not that I have cast normal day to day life aside to wrestle at my desk, quill clenched between teeth, ink-stained fingertips raking through my unkempt hair in anguish, mulling over plot complications and character flaws for years on end. It’s just that stories take their bits and pieces from so many different times and places. Our writing is influenced and changed by everything that we are exposed to. And this is the big one for me - How on earth can I explain how my imagination kicks into gear when a story is begun, how the fantasy world inside my head takes on a life of its own and how so much of what my characters do seems completely out of my control?
This point was driven home when my husband, freshly returned from a family visit in Denmark presented me with a beautiful second edition book of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales (Eventyr) printed in 1854. It belonged to his great grandfather, Niels Christian Nannestad and is complete with gothic writing and what looks like dirty marks that have come from eager little fingers smeared with frikadeller grease. Gotta love a kid that rushes straight from the dinner table to his favourite book!
I soon found my husband’s two volumes of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, a gift upon his birth in 1961, and my son’s English collection of the same, presented upon his birth in 1994. And then, not to be left out, I realised that my own book, The Girl Who Brought Mischief, was heavily influenced by these same Danish fairy tales. So how would I begin to describe the development of this story? It has, in effect, taken place over generations and across the globe. And it would definitely need to begin with Hans Christian Andersen, and I’m not sure that even the genius himself would be able to adequately explain his inspiration.