Wednesday, April 21, 2010

the what-if

Stacy asks:
Where do you get your ideas from?
Answer: I'm really not sure. They just sort of come to me, these what-ifs that whisper in my ear when I'm not expecting it, very often while I'm in the shower or driving in my car. Very often it happens in response to something else. The seed of the idea for Faking It came to me after watching one of the first episodes of Sex and the City. And after listening to the Duran Duran song Ordinary World, I knew how to answer the what-if question to the next phase of Andi's story. The idea for Why I Love Singlehood came after I found out that the guy I was pining for got a girlfriend.

The finalized product often looks different from the original seed of the what-if, but then again, so do we. Writers are like sculptors: we shape and mold, scrape and peel, stop and start again. We look at our masterpiece from different angles, find beauty in the flaws, surprises in the creases and textures, smoothing out the dents along the way. It has been said that Michelangelo claimed that David was already a finished piece of marble, and he just chipped away at the unneeded pieces. Likewise, I always loved the film Amadeus, when Salieri marveled that Mozart merely took dictation when he wrote his music, the concertos and minuets already finished in his head. I've never experienced that kind of genius, but I have been in awe of my novel in final form, wondering how did that happen? How did the what-if turn into words, which turned into characters with voices and beating hearts, which turned into dialogue and plot, which turned into a story, which turned into a book?

I suppose it's part of the job I love -- the creating and the creation.

It seems that no matter where I go, I've got a scrap of paper handy with me. A memo-book in my purse, a notebook in my backpack, a journal beside my bed, etc. I try to jot down the ideas as they come: a what-if, a snippet of dialogue between two people, a character name or description, a title (this is very hard to do in the shower). I've got quite a few what-ifs waiting to be born. And that's really what it's all about.

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