Wednesday, September 19, 2012

the story behind the story.

It goes without saying that I like stories. I live, breathe, eat, and dream them as do most writers. So of course I am monstrously curious to hear what inspired a certain tale or scene or character. The story behind the story if you will. The frustrating thing is, most people seem to be tight as oysters over the telling of those stories. I don't know why. Or else they say they can't remember. So to satisfy any of your back-story fans, I will attempt to give you a tale on what inspired certain things. If you have any questions about people, characters, stories, etc. that I have not touched on but you've been wondering about, just leave a comment and I'll see if I can't tell you about them as well.

A Mother for the Seasonings-- The plot popped into my head as I washed dishes one afternoon. Agatha Christie said it first and ever since I've held true: dishes are conducive to inspiration. My mind was taking its usual twining path through thought-land thinking of Nothing. Then somehow I started to laugh to myself over a queer idea. "Wouldn't it be quaint if someone named all their children after herbs?" And from there things started to spring up: the children sounded British but they weren't proper and they didn't live in England. Where then? India. And on and on it went till I found myself with a book that makes me smile still.

Cottleston Pie-- Of course we all know where the name came from, but the main character, Simpian Grenadine popped out of absolutely nowhere. The cousins were over and playing volleyball in the back yard. I sat on the porch steps not feeling like playing when some of the younger ones came over. We began chatting about some silliness and suddenly I was sending them off on an adventure to find Simpian Grenadine who could only be killed with the sword: Ruby Elixir. Then Ruby Elixir became Simpian's sword, and he--in turn--became the boy-who-was-Allister, and then we happened to fix on Cottleston Pie as the perfect name for his hideaway, and voila.

Calida Harper--the name "Calida" means "warmth" and it had very inauspicious beginnings. Because Fly Away Home is based off of the short-story "How About Coffee," I knew the main character must be named Harper. Then I started to search for a name that would prove a paradox to her character. I was flipping through my baby-names book (I'm fond of the 'C' section for some reason) and out tumbled Calida Harper. That's all there was to it!

Imperia Murdoch-- Imperia was another character who needed a name. Because of the time-period (early-mid 1700's) I wanted something old-world without being Puritanical. I am dead-tired of names like Mercy, Patience, Prudence, and all the rest of them. Then I found the name Imperia and knew it fit her. Sweet, regal, vunerable...Imperia is the center of Nick's world.

Scuppernong Days-- This was a book that gave me a title before a plot. I was peering out the window at something or other in the middle of cleaning up for the evening and my brain raised a word I'd not thought of in years: scuppernong which--immediately being followed by 'days'--demanded a story. Then Scuppernong started to sound like a sailing ship but had enough whimsy about it that it had to belong to a child's story, and then I found myself with a plot of treachery and high-seas teetering on the waves of mental capacity. I have not delved into this as far as I ought to, but I plan on taking it up immediately after Fly Away Home is finished.

The Scarlet-Gypsy Song-- As you can see, most of my work just tumbles onto me. I seldom have to go after it with a first. {successful plot-spinning must be chased down after the 20k mark} The Scarlet-Gypsy Song had the queerest start you could ever think of, considering what a convoluted tale it turned into. Again, I was just going about minding my own business (I believe I was upstairs putting a book away at that moment) when a single line popped into my head: "There was Nannykins to begin with..." which was quickly followed by "..but she had a bad knee and left for the North." and then I felt a sudden and desperate urge to know whom Nannykins was and who came after her and why they came and then I had Cecily Woodruff and after her a world-swap may read the rest in the oracles of the Gildnoirelly.

Mr. Wade Barnett-- "Sit by my side and let the world slip. We shall ne'er be younger.' Of course I saved the best for last--what do you take me for? Of course his character was shadily outlined in "How About Coffee" but his character--or at least appearance--got a huge boost and bolt by watching Roman Holiday starring Gregory Peck. I fell in love with this man with the deep brown eyes and the slow, throaty voice. I had to know more about him, and he presented himself at a time when I had {and have} no tangible man to love. Therefore I was able to pour all my affection into making him a hero worthy of my deepest regard. I think the biggest inspiration for me when I write him is envisioning his eyes. Even Callie admits that she's hardly considered his person...she never looks past his eyes because his gaze holds you there and questions you, turning you softly hither and thither... yes. I like him very much.


Kendra E. Ardnek said...

I completely understand stories just tumbling onto you. Half of what I've come up with had done so.

You like C names too? Hmmm ... I've actually got love/hate relationship with c's. In one series, almost every single female royal has a c name. In another series, the letter c doesn't exist. (for names, leastways)

Carmel Elizabeth said...

What interesting beginnings we have! Dishes seem to be therapeutic to writing, since I got my Winter Wings inspiration while scrubbing at the things late one sunday night in July. And of course, when I was finished, I scampered off to my bedroom, and wrote everything down. The original first line was "She wasn't particularly pretty, but had a certain charm about her eyes that, when noticed, was never forgotten." And, like Ara's eyes, I've never forgotten the line, though it's so drowned in the rest of the story I'm sure I don't know where is it. ;P


Anne-girl said...

Ah yes delightful Mr. Barnett! Mind if i steal the idea and do one of these posts someday? It would be fun!

Rachel Heffington said...

Kendra: That's funny! I don't always name my characters by "c's" but my eye always wanders to that section. :)
Bree: Well, if Agatha Christie does it, who is to say we can't too?

Anne-girl: Bye all means! Steal it!

Jack said...

I like knowing back stories. Thank you for sharing. I think everyone should do back stories.


Chloe M. Kookogey said...

I love this idea, Rachel! Isn't it interesting how normal situations can inspire a scene or even a full book? I've had snippets of dialogue pop into my head with absolutely no premeditation on my own part before, and though the end result normally has very little to do with the original idea, it's always an unforgettable experience.

Do you mind if I write up a post like this sometime in the next few days? I'd give you credit for the idea, of course.

— Elizabeth Rose