Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Where do you get your ideas?

Ask a 1000 writers and you'll get a 1000 answers. It's one of those bug-bear questions. When I get something published (hooray!) I try to tell the story behind the story but it ain't always easy (and sometimes I simply don't want to share!) In this post I thought I'd let you into my thought processes.
This is a gorgeous treasure chest that sits just inside the front door of my godmother's house. I've always loved it as it's got gorgeous colours and seems pretty old - about a century if I were to hazard a guess.
Due to the fact that it is a delightful hiding place for palm-sized hairy brown arachnids it has never really been used for more than dumping empty carrier bags. This summer I thought I'd do it up so that we could use it for storing winter blankets.

The brass plate at the front has been painted with horrid poo-coloured gloss which I have no idea how to remove but the paper lining, which was all torn, was a much easier challenge so I decided to replace it. To get the perfect finish I had to smooth the surface. As I scraped off the old paper that lined it I found this label.
It reads:
Z D Mr Dyer
Station: Stolpen (Sao**an)
3 Nov 1924
(Make out what you will, the original isn't much easier to read!)

Now this set me wondering all kinds of things: Who did it belong to? Z.D. Dyer? If so, who was Dyer? Why was he/she travelling from/to/in Germany? (My knowledge of German is zero.) What did the trunk contain? Why was the label on the inside of the trunk? OK, I admit this last one is fairly easily answered; as the label was sideways on the inside, the wood that made this chest was second-hand and had probably been used for packaging something else. This still leaves the question: what? Finally, why is the parrot in the left upside down?

With a little Google Research I discovered that Stolpen is a city in Saxony, Germany on the borders with Poland with a rather beautiful castle. It's famous as being the birth place of the Dolls, a circus family, and it has a Basalt rock formation which bares striking resemblance to the Meteora in Kalampaka not far from where I live.

This is fuel indeed for a story! Here's one scenario off the top of my head: A circus family has something to hide (treasure/family skeleton/real skeleton!) sends it in a trunk to Greece because they have a family member there who will guard it. Perhaps this person is a monk in one of the Meteora monasteries or an acrobat/escapologist cousin who is attempting some crazy feat of daring on the Meteora rocks. Of course the plan must go awry either through sabotage or by accident and then all the characters will have to set matters straight again. I could throw in a love interest and add something related to the parrot design, perhaps as a clue to finding the treasure or solving the mystery.

I hope it is clearer how the things I do/see/hear/read can inspire a story. My scenario, based on the input, might be very different from one you came up with. I've been going through a big Steampunk thing recently (more on that another time) and all my stories are leaning that way of late! You will probably have interpreted the material to fit the genre you feel most comfortable writing in.

Needless to say, I have not finished renovations on the chest (hairy arachnid has a winter home for another year) but the story has taken root in my head. I will let you know what comes of it, if anything ever does!

P.S. If you happen to know Z.D. Dyer or the origins of this chest I'd be delighted to hear about it!



  1. Epic use of an unexpected resource! I'd love to read that story.

  2. Great example of how little things in one's day becomes a story idea. The weather I'm experiencing at the moment often becomes the weather in the story. I like how the steampunk genre colors the story I'm working on and lets one tweak history. thanks for the fun post.

  3. Hi NOA,
    Love how you can almost peel a story out of some old items - like they are just waiting to be told - thanks for your story here!

  4. Thank you all! The story is still in its infancy but hopefully will reach the light of day soon enough.

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