Today I have the greatest of pleasure to have Australian author Dale Harcombe round at my place. Enjoy her article:
One of the questions writers get asked most often is where do you get your ideas? Actually, for the writer it’s more a case of not where you get ideas but how can you not have ideas?
Ideas come from life. They are all around us in the world and the people we meet and the conversation we have. The difference is the writer sees these things and then builds on them. They may see exactly the same scene as someone else but their writerly (if that’s not already a word as spell check insists it isn’t, it should be) brain then starts to imagine.
So writing is a combination of experience and imagination, of reality and fantasising. It also about empathising. Putting yourself into the other person’s place for a time, imagining how they feel for example when a loved one dies, or their marriage breaks up or a new baby is born, or disaster strikes or they see an amazing sunrise. It means tapping into our fears and joys, our emotions, passions and anxieties.
Most of all though writing is about story. I’ve just been re-reading, thanks to another author friend’s reminder, The Rock that is Higher – Story as Truth by Madeleine L’Engle, one of my favourite authors.
She stresses in that the importance of story. Facts though are not story. So often you hear someone say but that’s what really happened after they have written a piece. But that doesn’t make it a story. The facts then need to be shaped, added to, embroidered and maybe some things deleted or changed a little. It needs to be worked into a structure.
Some people proudly tell me they never read fiction. That’s sad as they are missing so much.They downgrade fiction as being unimportant and irrelevant. The opposite is true. Cognitive scientists in Toronto have found that people who read fiction have better developed social skills. The reason for this is that they will be more empathetic and understand other people better. In other words we learn about the world, the people and our place in it, by reading fiction. We learn to see more clearly. That’s why I read and write fiction.
Dale’s latest book is Streets on a Map. Interested readers can find out more about it at www.daleharcombe.com. Or you might also like to check out Write and Read with Dale, which is her very interesting blog.
If you scroll down to Friday December 10, you will find out how the character of Abby came into being and how story was created from an incident.
Dale Harcombe is the author of seven books for children, one book of poetry, numerous articles about marriage, home and family and now her general fiction book Streets on a Map.