Saturday, August 22, 2009

True Life is Stranger Than Fiction

As with many authors I'm sure, I tend to listen to a news story or watch a talk show, and I might happen to hear something that almost sounds too interesting or too unrealistic to be true. A story so wild that I wonder if any reader would believe it could really happen, like could a man with amnesia, missing for twenty years, simply show up at his loved one's doorstep out of the blue? Or a story of people who actually go through alien rehab. Stories so strange, readers would surely swear we as authors made them up.

A while back, there was a story about an NBA player who accused his wife of physical abuse. I wondered about the mindset of a woman who would abuse a man. A woman who'd dare possess the nerve to hit a man. Well, I did a lot of research into the aspect of control that's involved in that psyche. A couple of years later, I wrote Something He Can Feel. I'd also watched makeover shows where women had plastic surgery and it looked as though their new lives would be all they'd ever dreamed of, simply because they had a new nose, or maybe even a boob job. I saw a woman on Oprah who had gastric bypass surgery and lost a ton of weight, but she still looked miserable. I wondered what would happen if things didn't go right afterwards. What if someone's life sucked after the nip-tuck? I wrote Make Me Hot.

Now, not all of my books were fashioned after real life events. I have birthed story ideas that were not sparked in this way, but I think it's funny that no matter how amazing or outrageous of a story we could ever make up, it's probably been done before, or it could be. It's just that most of us would never have the opportunity or misfortune to live it. And so readers turn to us authors to write fiction novels so they can live vicariously through someone else by simply turning the pages.

Yesterday, I heard of a new show on CBS called The Good Wife, about a good woman who had a philandering, famous husband involved in a sex scandal. "Excellent idea producers," I said. My 2011 novel is about escorts and politics, and yes, my ears perk up every time I hear yet another story about some politician who felt entitled, who felt he could get away with, who felt he just had to have it all. The human instinct and human boundaries are very interesting. Greed and temptation and sex and murder and money and power, all make for the types of stories that made Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, and so many other shows so successful. And yet, it's happening all over the world, probably down the street, probably in the homes of more people than we think.

I know you can give ten authors the same subject of escorts and they'll come up with ten different stories. Simply having a topic does not make for an easy write. But, I'm wondering where other writers get their story ideas from as well. At times, it's surely a gift that pops into our heads and we write it down, or a title that moves us so we add it to the list. But, what moves us to write "that story" next? It's probably indescribable. But it's a question that readers often ask me. I'm curious as to where my fellow authors get their story ideas, and what makes that story the one.

Write on!


Shauna Roberts said...

I get many of my ideas from history and folk tales.

Liane Spicer said...

Like you, I get most of my story ideas from real life, then throw in a few 'what ifs'. It is said that there are no new stories, and I think that's true.