Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Mishmash: Inspiration, Presentation, and Commemoration

I'm putting this post together as a first attempt at what may evolve into a semi-regular blog feature:  A Friday post that briefly covers a variety of things -- loose ends, quick updates, and random writing thoughts-at-large.  

 Today there are three things I want to touch on:

I.  Inpsiration:

I was asked recently about where I get ideas about what to write.  I've been asked this before (I think all writers get this question), but it's always hard for me to be specific, because I'm not really sure.  Maybe it's a gift or just a sign of my scatter-brainedness, but thankfully ideas come to me faster than I can create stories.  

While I may not be able to always say where they come from, I at least try to keep track of them.  I always have a list of ideas I'm working off of.  And yes -- it's in a spreadsheet.  One tab of my "Story Tracker" spreadsheet lists 'ideas' and the other tab lists all the revisions of the stories I've completed, their word-count, where they've been submitted to, and so forth.  OK, I admit it -- I'm nerdy. 

Anyway, as I was thinking about that question this week, I realized one source of my ideas, and I wanted to share it with you:  I seem to get a lot of the germs of my ideas right out of the news.  I'll read a news story or catch it on TV and then later it will kind of reappear in an altered way, in a new setting, with a new 'what-if' kind of ending, or whatever.  But the seed of the idea seems to have come from that earlier news story.  

And I think this is a good thing -- after all, truth is stranger than fiction, so why shouldn't it serve as the basis FOR some fiction?

II. Presentation:

 At the beginning of this week, L.G. Keltner presented me with another blog award -- the Booker Award

Thank you very much, L.G.!

So here are the rules of this award:

-- This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blog must be at least 50% about books (reading or writing is okay)

-- Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books you have ever read. (More than five is okay)

-- You must give this award to 5-10other lucky book blogs you adore.

Well, I love so many books, it's extremely hard to pick only five as my favorites, but here are five are surely be top contenders for my list:

Stranger in a Strange Land  -- Robert Heinlein
The Lord of the Rings -- J.R.R. Tolkien
The Stand -- Stephen King
Dune -- Frank Herbert
The Godfather -- Mario Puzo

Many, many others might make this list if I were to redo it on another day, but these are my picks for today.  And if for some reason, I was restricted to only non-fiction, I might say:

Cosmos -- Carl Sagan
The Tao of Physics -- Fritjof Capra
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- Robert Pirsig (yeah, ok, it's a novel, but it touches on so many real-life issues and deep topics that I'm including it here)
On Writing -- Stephen King
The Tao of Pooh -- Benjamin Hoff

Now I'm supposed to name five-to-ten other "bookish" (or writing) blogs that don't already have this award, but I'm going to cheat and open it up.   Check out my profile to see all the blogs I follow, and here's the thing:  Every one of these blogs deserves this award!  

So I hereby present this award to each of you!!!  Take it, display it proudly, and pass it on.

III. Commemoration:

 And finally, I want to touch on something that many of my fellow writers have in their blogs the past few days:  The writing world has lost a huge legend:  Ray Bradbury  (8/22/1920 - 6/5/2012)  

I was first exposed to the work of Ray Bradbury in the early 1970's when I read his famous novel Fahrenheit 451.  I loved it and have re-read it several times since.  I have also read and admired much more of his work, from novels like Something Wicked This Way Comes to a ton of his short stories. 

But I have not read everything he wrote, or even most of it -- in his lifetime he published over FIVE HUNDRED separate pieces, from short stories to novels to screenplays.     

I loved his work as a reader, and now, as I clumsily hack away at trying to develop as a writer, I am even more impressed and awed by his prolific output.  To have written so much extraordinary work is simply amazing.

And, you know?  I opened this post talking about writing inspiration, and I think I've actually touched on it throughout.  In the section on Booker Award, I mentioned several favorite books that inspired me to write (including "Zen and the Art..." which was rejected over 100 times before it was finally published and became a best-selling legendary book -- how inspiring to a writer is that?!), and in this section, I've come full-circle.  Because if I ever need inspiration about how to write, I can't do any better than to consider the life and work of Ray Bradbury.

Thank you for all you've given the world, Ray -- you will be missed.


L. G. Keltner said...

Nice post. I also like The Tao of Physics. I took a class called The Intersection of Physics and Eastern Thought in college. It was definitely one of the most interesting classes I ever had.

Your other book choices were excellent as well.

M Pax said...

Ray continues to be an inspiration. He had many pearls of wisdom, too.

I get ideas from the news, too. This big honking piece of dock washed up in Oregon this week from the Tsunami in Japan. I went, Aha!

The first chapter of a new piece rolled right out.

Simon Kewin said...

Some great books there - including a couple I really, really must read...

Agree about the news. Sometimes just some stray phrase on there will send my imagination flying off at a tangent...

Heather Murphy said...

I'm interested in seeing a template of your story tracker spreadsheet. Do you care to share?

Julia Munroe Martin said...

It's nice to read your commemoration of Ray Bradbury -- I loved Something Wicked This Way Comes. I didn't realize he'd published so much! So impressive and I agree, I'm also bowled over by his production of extraordinary work.

Precy Larkins said...

I never know how to answer the "where do you get your ideas from" question. Probably because I never keep track of how or where the idea first started. Maybe I'll pay better attention next time.

And yeah, I was sad about Ray Bradbury's passing. May he rest in peace.

Deniz Bevan said...

Yay for Tolkien! And King and Bradbury of course - all three are huge inspirations.
Sometimes even just a word or a phrase that they - or other authors - have used will spark a whole new story idea for me...

Milo James Fowler said...

Because of his incredible body of work, Ray will remain immortal like all the greats. May we endeavor to walk in his steps.

Your "story tracker" is a great way to keep those cool ideas from slipping away before you have a chance to write about them!

DL Hammons said...

Congrats on your award!

I've never read Ray Bradbury, but still I'm a fan of his work. Such a visionary!

Nicole said...

Nice mix of insights! I like keeping an idea list, too.

Chris Fries said...

@L.G.: Thanks! Yeah, that's a pretty awesome book. I read it quite a while ago. I believe he's revised and republished it at least once since I first read it.

@M Pax: Yes he did. And that's an awesome idea for a story, Mary!

@Simon: Thanks. And you're right. It's always kind of fun to see what sends me off on an idea, and how it gets incubated in my subconscious, lol!

@Heather: Sure. I'll post it today or tomorrow for you.

@Julia: Yeas, it's definitely jaw-dropping to realize how many things of his wound up in print. But I'm right on his heals -- He's only around 500 or so ahead of me. I hear the first one's the hardest, though, lol!

@Precy: I agree. And thank you so much for the comment.

@Deniz: It only takes a little seed and a fertile mind. I think mine's fertile because of how much... um, 'fertilizer' gets taken in, lol!

@Milo: I share your thoughts on Ray! And thanks -- Heather asked me to share the template I use, and I'll post it today or tomorrow.

@DL: Thanks, Don! And you owe it to yourself to at least read Fahrenheit 451. I bet you'll enjoy it.

@Nicole: Thanks! I really appreciate that. ;^)

LTM said...

Great post! You're so right about inspiration coming from just everywhere. I mean, I never know what'll just stick in my head. Sometimes it's a photograph or a turn of phrase someone says or a snippet of a movie that sends me down the rabbit hole.

I think just being open to inspiration is the first step. :o)

LOVE the Tao of Pooh~

Gina said...

Hey, that spreadsheet sounds like a great idea! I have to keep opening the files to remember the word count or which stories are out waiting for answers on submissions. Your idea is very organized and would help me keep a better track of what is going where. I truly have to copy it!

Thanks Chris, as always. And keep the rewards rolling, you deserve them all!

Gina said...

Hey, that spreadsheet sounds like a great idea! I have to keep opening the files to remember the word count or which stories are out waiting for answers on submissions. Your idea is very organized and would help me keep a better track of what is going where. I truly have to copy it!

Thanks Chris, as always. And keep the rewards rolling, you deserve them all!

Nancy Thompson said...

Congrats on the award! I've only read one of those books, On Writing. I, too, am often inspired by real life news events.

Tonja said...

I love your book lists! They aren't my favorites, but I love how it paints a picture of who you might be.

It would be funny if we showed people our reading preferences instead of giving our names when we're introduced. "Hello. I read Milton, Homer, Toni Morrison, and Sylvia Plath." :)

Chris Fries said...

To LTM, Gina, Nancy, and Tonja: Sorry for the delay in responding -- been swamped lately!

@LTM: Thank you Leigh! You're right -- being open is half the battle. (and that is a great book)

@Gina: Thanks -- see my latest post for more details on the spreadsheet. And thank you for the very kind thoughts and wonderful support!

@Nancy: Thank you very much!

@Tonja: LOL! Great idea! But I'm afraid too many people might go, "Hi! Uh, my favorite things to read are the menu at McDonald's, the TV guide to see when the next Jersey Shore episode is, and a lol-speak text from my BFF." ;^)