After reading a recent post on Sue Healy’s blog, I was reminded that I have a little project called “On the Origin of Stories” in that great storage bin of essays, letters, stray thoughts and assorted mental detritus that I’ve committed to electronic paper.
Something rarely studied (at least to my knowledge) is where or how writers come up with their stories. The reason, no doubt, is that every story seems to have a story. Pick up a collection of shorts with an author’s introduction and you’ll often find an account of how each came to be. That doesn’t exactly lend itself to systematic study. Stories about stories, after all, are no easier to fit into a taxonomy of story-origins than are stories themselves. All the same, I keep collecting stories about stories in the hope that something comes to me.
For now I’ll relate one of my favorite accounts, which also comes from one of my favourite contemporary authors, Ray Bradbury. The account comes from Ray’s opening narration in the series, Ray Bradbury Theatre, an old HBO production (some fans have uploaded episodes to youtube.com). Ray says in his musical way that when people ask him where he gets his ideas, he credits his “magician’s workshop” (if I remember the expression correctly), at which point the camera pans across an office full of…well…junk. He tells us that sits down, looks around to finds what he needs and then begins.
Ray’s story was probably half-contrived to segue into the television show. At least, he’s never mentioned it in the introductions that I’ve read or in this Paris Review interview with his biographer. But I don’t know for sure. Hell, he may well write in the middle of that mess too—it would give me a headache.
At any rate, if you’re an author with an origin story you want to share—or better yet—something a little more general like Sue offered, please put it in a comment (and don’t forget to tell me the publication details so I can reference the book. I don’t care if it’s self-published either).