Thursday, September 6, 2007

Will Steal for Writing

"A lot of the time, I'll put people I know personally into roles. Or I'll take parts and mix in different parts."
-Whittaker

Ever since Monday, and everyone's funny stories about dating/being hit on, I've been thinking about reality in fiction. Not necessarily in the highly intellectual, metafictiony, The Things They Carried kind of way, but simply how a thing that happens to us, or a person we meet can become seeds for a great story.

I can think of a handful of stories, right off the bat, that I've written based on/informed by reality. They tend to be some of my favorites, too. Go figure, right? Then, you have someone who devotes an entire blog to lines they've overheard, http://eavesdropwriter.blogspot.com/ and another blog where lots of people contribute http://overheardlines.blogspot.com/. Take a look, there's a lot of good potential material at either.

Of course, another beautiful thing about fiction is the ability for a writer to tell their secrets without anyone knowing that the secrets are real. You get to change names, change circumstances, but still get something completely true and real out. Okay, now I'm getting into The Things They Carried territory. Speaking of which, who's read it? If you haven't, go to the library/bookstore and get it. I'm serious. Anyone who's a writer ought to read this book at least once in their life.

Right, so let's talk about stealing from reality to feed your writing. For my part, I have a poem I like a lot about a rehab. bird that came through the Raptor Center. The bird was a golden eagle with lead poisoning. On a whim, he got a blood transfusion from a great horned owl (One of the gals who ran the RC had him at another facility for treatment, an owl died and they said, "Hey, I wonder what'd happen?). Said golden was a dark, hunched over thing and I named him Igor. It fit. He was one of the few golden eagles to ever survive lead poisoning. So, he was ugly as sin, but also miraculous. In the end, far more impressive than his rommate, despite the fact that she was the biggest and most gorgeous golden any of us had ever seen.

How about you? How often to you steal for your writing? Do you have any particular favorite examples of your theft? Tell me about your thieving ways.

3 comments:

Shane said...

Stealing is wonderful. Borrowing or retelling is not. When I steal things for my writing, from my own experiences or someone elses, I'm bringing my own unique perspective to the story. Take my story about going to a play alone and having some strange woman pull out her photo album and start showing it to me. (Kinda creepy, eh?) Now, you could have picked up on whatever details I gave about the woman and myself and probably retell it, but what's the point? However, if you take the core of that story and build your own experience out of it, not only will it come off as more real on the page, but also more interesting. Stealing for me, isn't rehashing, but placing yourself (or a character of your imagination) into a situation. Plus, we only steal situations and ideas that interest us, right?

Ali said...

You know, I'm having a vision. In it, I write this story about a guy who goes to the theater and gets accosted by a woman with a photo album...

Maybe I'll submit that this month. But, it's not about you. I swear.

Mishell said...

I think that every story ever told is a theft of something else. Shane nails when he talks about "bringing my own unique perspective to the story" being what makes theft different from borrowing or retelling. Take, for example, the movie Clueless. It is clearly a version of Austen's Emma, but what makes it "theft" instead of "retelling" is the uniquely modern California slant given to it by the screenwriter. Any one who has read Emma clearly recognizes the story, but rather than this being a hinderance, it instead shows how little humanity has changed in 200 years, at the same time showing how much the world has changed over that time.

Personally, everything I write has some form of theft in it. I don't see how it's possible not to. After all, our lives--what happens to us, those we know, what we read watch, or hear--is all that we know, and aren't we told from the first time we pick up a pen is to write what we know?