Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Magical Forests of Schenectady, or Hunting Down and Capturing Fantasy Ideas

The best place I’ve found for hunting down fantasy ideas is a library (or your favorite local, independent used bookstore).

If I look up from my computer I can see books with titles like these – A Dictionary of Angels, Arab Folktales, Tokyo Underworld, Mythical Trickster Figures, American Indian Myths and Legends, Greek Homosexuality, The Complete Prophecies of Nostradamus, and the History of Grave Robbing.

I think the word you’re looking for is: eclectic.

And, actually, this represents one shelf. I’ve got books of much greater range stashed all over the house.

The best reason for becoming a writer is because, when all else fails, you’re often a hit at cocktail parties. Because we’re trolling dark and strange places for ideas, writers know the weirdest stuff – and we know it passionately. When I get on the thread of something, I’ll follow it all over the place. Often my original intent gets lost among all the cool side streets.

So, I think if you’re trying to cultivate the heart of a fantasy writer, you need to develop the passions of a researcher.

Or, as I said in class, it helps if you naturally think too hard about stuff. (God, I’m so articulate!)


Zoe said...

I was looking through A Dictionary of Angels for character names a couple of weeks ago. And I have a book of mystical numeric correspondences, and I was idly flipping through it the other day, and the next thing you know, I had a story idea... Ideas come from the strangest places.

tate said...

The strangest place I got a story idea is from a calendar.

Several years ago now, I had one a "word-a-day" calendar, which featured words that had gone out of common usage.

One of the words was "tutivillus" who is (was?) the demon supposedly in charge of collecting words managled in the course of the saying of Mass. This lead to a short story by the same name.