The image, frozen and stuck in that one perfect moment, tells a million different stories, all of them as true or as false as one wants to make them. Forget a thousand words; I'll give you a novel based on one picture alone, given that it strikes me in the right way.
And with the question of "how" from readers and/or non-writers comes the conversation between two writers, the "where do your ideas come from?" discussion, a discussion that is infinitely more interesting to think about and mull over. And it's one I got into this weekend with a good friend who is in the process of having her first book published (yay!). It got me to thinking about the origins of all my weird tendencies, the outer fringe territories populated by what seems to be a small, but growing, legion of people who enjoy the more bizarre, more surrealistic, more *insert whatever outlandish description your brain can come up with here.*
I read a lot as a child. I also played a lot of video games. When I stumbled across the world of RPGs (role-playing games), I fell in love with them. Long, epic stories of magic and monsters, travels, trials, and tribulations all coalescing into one grand finale. Then I found the the actual RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, RIFTS, HeroQuest. Rather than sitting in front of a television screen pushing a few buttons now, I was sitting around a dinner table until 5 or 6 six in the morning rolling dice, making real decisions about fake characters with real outcomes while hopped up on cold pizza and soda. This is the first time I can remember having to use my brain in a more creative way. This is also probably why I didn't date for a very, very long time. C'est la vie.
There were movies I watched and books that I read as a youth that heavily influenced my more left-of-center ideas: "Spaceballs," "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," Ul De Rico's "The Rainbow Goblins," and foreign sketch comedy like Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Kids in the Hall. I certainly didn't understand the nuance of every thing I read or saw, but I enjoyed being surprised, I enjoyed the wonder of it all. To be captivated by something that hinged on reality, but then fell over the cliff of nonsense just a little ways...that was my sweet spot.
"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men..."
And then I did date, which was followed by heartache. Bad poetry and bad decisions followed shortly after, adding yet a few more facets to the personality that I hadn't had before. Extra emotions and experiences that one couldn't just conjure up from nothing. Here was a dose of reality, served up cold in front of me and I ate every foul-tasting bite until the plate was clean. This was followed up by college, where I found the wonders of heavy boozing and extracurricular activities that changed more than their fair share of synaptic pathways, made me see things in lights that sparkled differently than the sober mind would allow. This was, I believe, the second big (see: true) step into this mental shaping of my authorial proclivities.
And so this is how I approach my own writing - I may have a particularly striking image in a dream that sticks with me through the day. I may pluck a random string of words out of my memory and put it to paper just to see where the memory leads me. Sometimes the lines die on the page and never go anywhere; it's sad, but I've gotten used to this happening. Other times, five pages comes quickly from the fingers. Stumbling across images (like those found above) is a pretty excellent prompt as well. If it strikes me, I can find the story buried outside the lines of the image in order to find the subtext. But really, when all is said and done, the stories come to me because I allow myself to be open to their arrival through any medium they choose. I am inspired by most things, but I cherry-pick the ones that seem to have the most interesting story within them.
Your assignment: pick from any of the four images below. Leave a small, but inspired, bit of writing based on one of them in a comment.