Monday, February 18, 2013

Using the News

By Meredith Cole

Do current events influence your ideas for books and stories?

I read a newspaper (almost) every morning and enjoy listening to NPR. I like to know what’s going on all over the world—so do I get inspired to put current events in my stories?

I tried to think of a concrete event that I read about that inspired me to write a story. I think the answer is that life in general finds its way into my stories and books and inspires me. I haven’t written specifically about the war in Iraq, but a veteran has found her way into one of my short stories. And knowing something about the war was helpful in writing about her PTSD. But I’ve never written about a specific event in the war.

The trouble with big news events (kid in the well, first African-American president, meteors in Siberia, etc.) is that everyone knows about them and starts to get distracted when they read the story. I remember this! I know how this turns out…

I realize that all sorts of minor news stories have stuck with me and elements of them have inspired mysteries. But I have used artistic license to change the actual stories to meet my fictional needs, so probably the original story would be unrecognizable to anyone but me.

I think actual events in my life are much more inspiring for me and tend to “stay with me” longer than news stories, though. The emotion of being there sears it more in my mind. It’s the what if… That moment when a car almost hits you and you think—what if? What if my life became entwined with the driver? What if I was killed and they were tortured by guilt? Or if I tried to get revenge? Either idea could inspire a story. And make me grateful that neither never actually happened to me.

Happy President's Day! 


1 comment:

Barry Knister said...

As is the case with your comments, what you say makes sense. But Big Events shove their way into my work, whether I will or no. Nothing since Kennedy's assassination has so permeated American consciousness as has You Know What. In one of my stories, a character finds herself on the beach in Naples, Florida. It's a beautiful, clear, sunny day four years after another such day. But as she watches a pelican fall out of the air and stab itself head-first into the water, the moment can only relate to one thing for her.