Friday, November 13, 2009

Words, Words, Words

So many ways to quote Shakespeare, and so many ways to read his works.

Alas, dear friend, I promise not to rant and rave about the works of William Shakespeare - in particular about the play I quoted: Hamlet (short version of the title).

What I will do is speak about muse, as it is still that month dealing with novel writing. I've not had time for many posts, mostly because I've been writing, editing, reading, and playing with words. However, I will offer up some words about inspiration and ideas.

I am often asked from whence my ideas come. (Sorry) I don't know, is the honest answer. They come from many places. I'm certain you're expecting me to say "Shakespeare," given my prattle about the Bard. And I'll confess, Shakespeare's plays are certainly one of many sources. For those who've read The Strange Cases of Rudolph Pearson, you'll note that there is a bounty of Shakespearean quotes. Certainly, I played with the character Prince Hamlet when developing Pearson throughout the novel. Not only did Professor Pearson quote the play often, but the character also suffered from some of the "conditions" of which Prince Hamlet suffered. The most obvious being the question of sanity.

With that said, my inspiration for the character was not Hamlet. Nope, I wanted an unlikely character in an interesting situation. Although, I confess, given the Lovecraftian themes a professor is also a likely character.

But let me not wander too far from my topic. For me, reading and re-reading (and teaching) the works of Shakespeare is a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration. I've had solitary sentences (in context) give me myriad story ideas. His works are replete with wonder and amusement. If you take the time to worry yourself with the text and subtext, your fancy will certainly be struck.

I do know that reading Shakespeare is not cup of tea everyone can drink. And I don't sit around reading Shakespeare looking for ideas. Honestly, inspiration comes from every direction - when I'm looking. Music is a great source. Film, the news (oh, what dreadful stories are to be found there), the shopping mall, video game (yes, I have an archaic Xbox, and a contemporary PS3).

In the end, I don't know that my muse comes from any group of things or any single thing. When I choose to consider something, I find myself inventing a history, surrounding ideas, themes, and characters. Most often, the character comes first, then the plot and theme follow. Perhaps that is called daydreaming. I like to call it "my job." :)

Allow me to throw out a line from a Beatles song:

"When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybodies help in any way."

The song is Help, and besides having a catchy melody, it has instant character. I wonder how many tales could be written from this line?

Mind you, for me it is more than the lyrics. It is the melody as well. I've found my muse in symphonies ranging from Mozart to Wagner. One is often quite cheerful and the other brooding. Sometimes, it's the reverse. A dark Mozart is great motivation for me, and a frolicking Wagner puts me on edge.

Ah, but here's the rub. I don't think anyone can be told where to find inspiration. So my answering the question is not likely to do much other than inspire you to find your own muse. And don't overlook your own experiences. Writers are the sum of their experiences. I don't know that one must suffer to produce art, or commercial entertainment, but it does help if one is exposed to a wide variety of experiences. Perhaps a little suffering is good for the soul, but so is a great deal of joy. Mayhaps is all boils down to: writing. Writing and something is bound to turn up. Words, words, words...


Charles Gramlich said...

It's like a quote i like. "Some folks will stand amid stones and decry their lack of a weapon." Some people will stand amid inspiration and claim they have none.

Steve Buchheit said...

I think the main issue that they think novels have these Wonderul Stupendous OMG That's so Frigign' Amazing kind of ideas to start with. And they're waiting for that to come in. So when then get bothered with the, "Okay, so we take zombies, and they're actually accountants when they aren't working tax season..." ideas they dismiss them as less than worthy.

William Jones said...

Charles - A very apt quote.

Steve - Quite right. Often it is the BIG idea that people are waiting for. I know many editors who have said they'd like to read stories where small things happen.

Rick said...

With any luck at all, over the next decade science will discover the source of ideas for us writers. There are some indications that ideas are contagions, and that by drinking out of someone else's glass. Imagine the aftermarket for Stephen King's used kitchenware.

Another viewpoint is that ideas find us, and that we need not worry over finding them. According to leading proponents of this idea, it is helpful to wear certain colors which tend to attract ideas. Most agree that the mating call horns used to attract ideas are irrevelant, as it is plain from much research that ideas are genderless.

Anonymous said...

When I finally decided to get in gear and finish my story for TALES OUT OF MISKATONIC UNIVERSITY, I put on the headphones and listened to Mozart's Requiem while typing away. The next day I went back to revise what I'd written -- and barely remembered typing any of it. Many thanks, Wolfgang...

Vesper said...

Perhaps that is called daydreaming. I like to call it "my job." :) - I love that, William! I daydream all the time… I’d like to be able to call it “my job”… :-)

It’s very interesting what you’re saying about music. I find that for me, too, music is an inspiration, but when I’m thinking of a particular story I can only listen to a particular type of music, one that keeps me in that mood. I cut out everything else. It could go on for days, and days, and days…