Monday, June 24, 2013


Where do stories come from? I imagine that every tale, like every super hero, comes with its own origin story.

My stories tend to arise from particularly strong and troubling feelings. And that makes sense when you consider the importance of giving the characters in a story some strong and driving motivations with which readers can identify.

One of my earliest published short stories was inspired when I noticed signs stapled to telephone poles in my neighborhood, signs alerting people to a rash of local break-ins during which several people had been murdered. My fears got me speculating about how I might respond if I came home to confront an intruder. Being me, what I came up with is probably not an approach I'd recommend (don't try this at home), but it worked for the story in which a young woman who comes home to an intruder tells him about her experience as a were-tiger..

My first middle-grade dark fantasy was inspired by very strong and conflicting feelings of wanting to belong, and at the same time, wanting to lash out at the people whose acceptance I sought. I was, putatively, an adult at the time the inspiration struck, but I eventually recognized the feelings as rising from issues that had been with me since middle school - and middle school was really the right place for them. My 14-year-old heroine, Haley, has an empathic bond with a wasset - a creature out of north woods logger lore, that travels under the snow to attack its prey from below.

My romances are all inspired by the obvious human longing for acceptance and a fulfilling love life, but each romance also comes with issues that need to be resolved for love and acceptance to flourish. In the context of a story, I gain a new perspective on the misunderstandings and hurt feelings I've encountered in life.

I can re-imagine the issues in a story context that allows for resolutions that may not be part of my own experience. As a writer I can give happy endings to my characters if to no one else, and play the part of a fairy godmother. (Thus the origins of my Fairy Godmothers' Union, True Love Local stories, of which 'Wonder Guy' is the latest, full-length novel contribution.)

A sense of isolation and profound discouragement in life acted as one of the driving influences behind my first published full-length novel, 'Spirited!' The story provided a means, in the guise of a magical genie, to show my isolated and discouraged heroine vast worlds of possibility and the limitations of her beliefs about how the universe worked.

The story also reminded her of the importance of her friends and community as she became caught up in an urgent quest to save them all from the influence of an ancient succubus demon.

The old saying, 'tis an ill wind that blows no good' applies here. The darkest and most difficult feelings can serve to inspire a story, perhaps as a challenge to be overcome, perhaps as an underlying wound shaping the life of a hero or heroine, perhaps calling on the world of imagination to offer up distraction or comfort to see us through to the other side of the darkness. Stories are the dreams we choose to dream.


Big Mike said...

I find resolve in three areas for my stories: events that surround me (like you infer), internal struggles with the irony and insanity of modern life, and dreams. About 7 of the 18 stories I've written come from nocturnal fancy, and I'm not alone. Did you know that Frankenstein evolved from the author's dreams?

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)