Tuesday, 14 June 2011

I had better read another newspaper!

Fellow Writers Blog Hop (second Tuesday)

Back in the early 1970s I had a particular nightmare of a dream.  Involving evil carpets and tube trains!  I am a person who could say, if I didn’t know better, never dreams, so if I wake and I remember a dream, it stays remembered!

During the early 1980s I read a short piece, a paragraph no more, in the newspaper about a young policeman attacked by yobs.  How a middle-aged man had come to his rescue.  Splendid fellow.

In the 1990s during a menopausal hiccup I did a course on oral history and fell in love with archives.

Now in the early 21st century I have started writing, people often ask where inspiration comes from!  From everywhere, is my stock answer; it doesn’t really satisfy but it is true, for me.  In my short story collection I have heavily plundered both my childhood and my adulthood.  Opened endless files in my memory banks of people I have known, met or just passed by in my travels.

My evil people-eating carpet now takes pride of place in my short story collection.  The tube trains I discarded but that carpet, sitting in my mind all those decades, leapt onto the page with great youthful vigour.

My policeman paragraph sent me into a daydream of splendid heroines defending said cop against mighty odds!  A whole story evolved over the course of a year, in my head only.  A storyline which sent me, and my friend from forever, hot foot to the eastern seaboard of America to do research.  Because, as I wasn’t a writer yet I thought I could do anything, even set my book somewhere I knew nothing about.  We went three times loading suitcases with books, leaflets and photographs.  No Google maps back then.  I started my masterpiece – a piece of great literature! - but it was never finished because I took myself off to university – then the well-loved but unfinished masterpiece went into box in the attic to languish, snuffed out before having breathed in glory.

Whilst studying for my Masters 'Oral History' and the archives took over my imagination; the stories of real people were fascinating.  When I needed a framework for my novels a decade later  it was to the archives I went, to Oral History.  The Sefuty Chronicles are all about archival material, transcripts of recorded histories being set down by researchers.  I’m on the third volume already.

My whole life serves as inspiration for my characters and plot lines; it’s just that some stand out for me.  My policeman story?  Well, as I say, it was well loved.  I opened that box a while ago and re-read it.  I discarded three quarters.  Re-read again and thought maybe there were possibilities hiding among the words.  Not as it was.

I am relocating the whole kit and caboodle to Eastern England, the policeman is now to be a reclusive writer of dry informative articles.  The American cop angle had been the crux of the original.  Also an execution/murder which he took the rap for.   That is causing a little problem with the new version – an unsolved murder/execution is central to the plot. Our police here are very rarely armed, our legal proceedings are very different.  Would a kitchen knife and the North Sea suffice I wonder? !

Maybe I had better read another newspaper!


  1. May be you should read another newspaper!!

    Real life characters are great inspiration and cool to start with!!

    with warm regards
    Another Author

  2. Newspapers hold so many true life stories that can be the opening for a writers mind. Dependent on the paper you're reading will depend on the type of story you maybe want to write, but there is definitely lots in there.

    I wish you luck with your policeman. He seems a dear friend who may one day see his day.

  3. I had a dream when I was a kid that I still turn to when writing a particularly scary scene. It's not the scary part of the dream I'm remembering, but the fear I felt while having the dream. It seems I am able to recall the fear from that dream more clearly than I am any fear I have felt in real life.

    Now I'm thinking I should start reading newspapers more closely! I usually just skim over them looking for something particular. That is a practice that is going to have to change!

    Excellent post!

  4. LOVE that the evil carpet found a home in a story...

    It's so true that real life is as inspiring--everything we do, say, interact with, hear about has the potential to ignite the spark.


  5. What's the old saying, truth is stranger than fiction?

    Life is inspiring, and we just have to pay attention to feel it.

  6. I don't usually read the "important" news stories about politics and world events. I prefer those obscure human stories or stories about scientific discoveries. I keep a file drawer full of news clippings that I can use for story idea. Sadly, many of the modern papers have more canned syndicated content that don't include as many good stories as papers prior to the 1990s had. I still get the local paper, but I don't clip as many stories as I used to.

    Tossing It Out

  7. I got the habit of newspaper clippings from my father who wrote about english - law and banking - he had a weekend ritual - armed with a rulerhe would carefully go through the weeks papers neatly tearing out snippets of interests. He also for a time wrote book reviews and would file the review within the pages - not just the books he reveiwed but any book he read. I still come across books on my shelves with these ancient reviews - not all have survived constant house moves - shame.

  8. Thanks Alberta, what a wonderful idea. I know what I would like to get hold of. I used to work in the Science Museum Library, and they had these wonderful folio editions of the 'Illustrated London News' -- I think. Some Victorian Newspaper. I bet I could get heaps of great historical SF stories from there. I wonder if it's online?

  9. So true! Inspiration is in every newspaper...and in every story inspired by a newspaper article. Recycle and reuse takes on a whole new meaning here, doesn't it? :))