I've been asked "where I get my ideas" and I don't really have a good answer to that. Sometimes I quote Katherine Anne Porter and say "Now and again thousands of memories converge, harmonize, arrange themselves around a central idea in a coherent form and I write a story." Other times I might do something like this:
|A couple years ago:|
Grandma's 80th birthday
A woman with a walker that had tennis balls on the ends was consistently walking up and down the hall, apparently going nowhere in particular but looking alert. Another woman who stays in the same room as my grandmother was hanging about my chair, frequently touching my shoulder and asking me incomprehensible questions. My dad's partner managed to figure out that she wanted to go into the next room but did not want to operate the door herself or go alone. And another woman wandered through and told us all in a breathy voice that she hoped we would have a blessed day.
My aunt got my attention when all this was going on and said something like, "I can just tell you're going to use some of this in your books."
That hadn't occurred to me. I'm certainly not planning on grabbing real-life experiences and sewing them into my book, and I can't trace the origin of any of my book ideas to any event that's happened to me. (Considering most of them are science fiction and fantasy, that's probably fortunate.) I'm not, as a result of this visit, planning any nursing home scenes populated with colorful gray-haired women sprinkling blessings on visitors or timid dementia patients asking for help getting through the door.
But I'm sure that if I ever do decide to write anything about this time in someone's life, or about a person whose relative is in this situation, or even about people who don't have all their marbles in other contexts, these experiences might flavor my prose in ways I may or may not notice. More likely than not, they'll just mix with some other things I've seen and done and come out unrecognizable, but maybe make me think of my grandma anyway.
I'm going to discuss to what extent authors' own experiences inform their writing in another post sometime. I have a lot of thoughts on that. Until next time. . . .