Sunday, June 18, 2006

Remain sitting at your table...

It seems to be a law of writers' blogs that you must have an essay on that perennial question: Where Do You Get Your Ideas? Since I haven't even figured out how to post those links at the side of the blog yet, I thought I'd just get this one out of the way because it's so easy.

Franz Kafka offered this advice to writers (I guess to writers - I can't imagine who else he would have been talking to):

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstacy at your feet.

I'm here to say that that Kafka really knew what he was talking about.

My boyfriend has a house in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, an historical district with gorgeous old houses (huge wraparound porches, five-story high old growth trees, azaleas, hydrangeas, hyacinths - fireflies, for God's sake) - some of which have been redone to perfection, others (fewer and fewer) of which are, well - crack houses. Not to put too fine a point on it.

It makes for some interesting traffic on the streets, let me tell you.

This house is between two rental houses - grand old places that were split up some time ago into various small and in several cases, disreputable, apartments. In the house on the right are student types and young recent graduates. In the house on the left are crazy people and criminals.

And all this makes for some interesting viewing, during those long, long days when I'm staring blankly out of whichever window I happen to be working in front of.

There's a very, very cute twenty-something in the student house. Very cute. Very smart. Long hair. Great, probing eyes. Sits on the porch alone and smokes and thinks. Dead end job. Did I mention cute? And who lives with his very sweet, very straight girlfriend. And I'm very nicely taken care of myself, thank you very much. I'm just saying.

In the crazy house, there is a crazy girl. Young woman. One or the other. You must use words like "spitfire" and "floozy" and "lolls" and "prowls" to describe her. She throws anything within reach when she's angry, which is often. She screams. She sobs. She constantly locks herself out of the house.and asks the nearest passing man to boost her up to the second story window so she can get back in. She is often in just a - very short -bathrobe when she does this. I don't actually think she works, but if she did work, she'd be a "dancer". You know. Not quite exactly the way I'm a dancer. Sex just rolls off her in waves. I'd sleep with her. Well, I wouldn't really, but I certainly don't have the slightest trouble imagining it.

Oh yeah, and she's married. Young husband. Clueless.

Now, this whole situation is ripe. It's practically oozing. There will be all kinds of sex with the wrong people. There will be scheming, and cross-scheming. Someone will die. Horribly. There will be betrayals and reversals that will make your head spin.

And you know, I don't have even the vaguest idea what part of it I'll end up writing. The whole Hitchcockian thing? Or just one character who shows up fully formed in some other story when I least expect it? I have no idea. I just know it's growing.

I remain sitting quietly at my table, and wait for the world to roll at my feet.


Milady Insanity said...

This maybe the most eloquent essay on "where do you get your ideas" I've seen.

I write too, and when I decided to start doing author interviews on my blog, I promised myself I'd not ask anybody this question--didn't seem right to ask a question that I wouldn't have an answer too.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Milady (I just love saying that...)

What a lovely thing to say, thank you. I never used to be able to answer that question, either. I think it throws writers to be asked it because by the time you're at any point that you consider yourself a real writer, you don't remember how you got there in the first place (and sometimes, you don't want to be reminded...!) But it's interesting to step back and observe your actual thought process so you can at least take a stab at describing it to non-writers who ask.

Now YOUR blog is fantastic. Thoughtful, real essays, and it looks incredible - did you do that yourself? I'll have to spend some time exploring it when I get back from New Orleans... I don't know how much time I'll have to post for the next week or two.

Take care till then! Alex

Milady Insanity said...

I agree on the not wanting to remember part--mostly because if I ever knew where I got ideas, I've long forgotten.

Thank you, and I hope to see you on my blog!

If you'd like to do a blogday in August around your book release on my blog, just drop me an email--it's on my profile.

PS I didn't do the blog design. I understand HTML just well enough to do links and pictures.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thanks, I'd love to guest for you! It's actually September, now - I have to update everything. Sigh.

I'll come by your blog after these two trips.

I'm in New Orleans now and whatever anyone's heard, it's worse than you can imagine.

But the Quarter LIVES - rebuilding New Orleans one party at a time.

Allison Brennan said...

Hi Alexandra . . . I read your comments over at Brett's blog about comparisons . . . I do that all the time. I've wondered if I could have written a BETTER book if I gave myself more time . . . but I also know me, and I get bored very fast, so if I can't get a book done in 3-4 months, I'm bored with it and it will never be finished.

I love your whole concept and think your book will do very, very well. I know I'm buying a copy! I love supernatural thrillers. I was raised on Stephen King. THE STAND to this day is one of my all-time fave books, and THE TALISMAN and NEEDFUL THINGS are close seconds.

I'm sorry I missed Brett's blog thread when it was hot! I've been spending more time writing and less time blogging . . .

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Allison. You know, I KNOW I'll never be as good a writer as, well, since you mention him, Stephen King. I mean - that's genius (THE STAND is a book I've read dozens of times and will undoubtedly read dozens more).

But I very, very rarely read a story that I wish I'd written (although I often wish I could WRITE as well as the author). I want to read what I'M writing.

Stephen King can't write my stories. He can't write your stories. So it's up to us to get good enough, be good enough, to tell our stories - or those characters and those worlds will never live.

I hope you're right about THE HARRROWING doing well! I'm getting great feedback from people reading it, and a VERY wide range of ages, which is exciting. Since you obviously love King as much as I do I think it'll work for you.

The blogging thing I'm just not being able to keep up with at all! I guess it's like exercise - you have to start slowly, build up the muscles, and not let it overwhelm the rest of your life.

The truth is, I'd RATHER dance...

Alex ;)