I’ve often been asked where my stories come from and at first I didn’t really have an answer, so I’d shrug and say that they just appeared in my head. It’s not untrue, but I was aware that there was more to it than that – I simply couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I’ve pondered this question for a while now and have come to the conclusion that I do what Mark Twain suggested; each story I write takes shape from something I already know; something I’ve experienced personally, something that has happened to someone else or something that could potentially happen if…
In short, I take what I know and twist.
This means that when I am told (as I have been) that ‘I’d like to write a book too, I just don’t know what it would be about’, I have an answer (thanks, Mark): write about what you already know.
Which leads me neatly on to another thing I’ve been told fairly recently; that someone had half-written a book only to find that someone else had already had a similar idea to theirs and that story was already out there. They stopped writing because they didn’t want to appear to be plagiarising.
Now I get this, I really do and it was another thing that played on my mind. Then I read a quote by Audre Lorde who said that ‘there are no new ideas, only new ways of making them felt’ and the truth of this touched a nerve.
For clarity: suppose three people are each given the brief to write a love story that incorporates murder and ends in a double tragedy? Imagine that the first writer is a natural cynic, the second an unmitigated romantic and the third is blessed with a razor sharp wit. I can guarantee that none of those stories will be the same as the others, nor the same as the Shakespearean original. There is room for us all.