A Reader, the Nature of Stories, and No Man is an Island

I just got a message from a reader who used to enjoy my juvenile books:

I just wanted to say that though I have outgrown these books now (and I am sad about that) your books have blessed me a lot and helped me write a story about horses years ago.

I can’t even begin to say what they have done for my Dyslexic friend. I showed her and lent her a few of your books and now she has started to enjoy writing and she wrote a 40 page novel even though before she saw writing as a curse.

The story line each of your books holds is something hard to find in books for a younger audience and I have always enjoyed them and I keep them so when I have little girls of my own, they can read them.

I thank you for the inspiration. They take hold of me and I will always look back at buying one of your books and staying up all night reading it as a fond memory…

A number of things struck home with her email.

First, how fortunate I am that this girl emailed me years ago. She is a bright, vivacious person, and I feel blessed to have become her online friend.

Second, I love that she wanted to share her enjoyment with her own young friend. Isn’t that the way we are? We want to give the things that have meant so much to us to others, and their ensuing enjoyment in our gift gives us joy.

And third, the nature of stories. This one’s a bit harder to explain, so I’ll use the words of a master, Hermann Hesse:

… the river is everywhere at once, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at once, and that there is only the present time for it, not the shadow of the past, not the shadow of the future.

bookI think stories exist much in the same way. They may seem to come from nowhere, but actually, they come from everywhere and everything. We ourselves are stories; everything we do, experience, think, desire, everything we perceive through our senses, is connected to our story. Everything that exists has a story, a reason, a purpose for being, no matter how simple, no matter how complex.

And stories in books are one of the bridges between us. My young friend read my book, which came from the story of my life and the myriad stories that I allowed to inspire and change me, and she allowed it to inspire her. My book and all that contributed to it, became part of her. And then she passed that inspiration along, her own story added to mix, and her friend was inspired as well.

We are none of us alone.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Genius

So I’m back after too long away. On the up side, I have lots of stuff to share.

To start, a friend sent me this link: Elizabeth Gilbert giving a TED talk on genius. Much food for thought. Here’s the info:

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

Enjoy!

 

An Awesome Ten Minute Exercise

Set your timer for ten minutes. Write down FIVE novel or movie concepts  in logline form (one sentence describing each idea). You must get down five ideas within the time allotted. Polishing the loglines afterward is optional.

I did this recently and came up with the following:

  1. Comedy/Coming of Age: A teenager drops out of high school and heads out to find the Dalai Lama and ask him the meaning of life.
  2. Action/Adventure: An amnesiac woman in a bathrobe and fuzzy bunny slippers shows up on Dave’s doorstep – but she isn’t what she appears to be, as the gunmen who soon follow confirm.
  3. Action/Comedy/Fantasy: The Sonoran Desert trickster, Coyote, takes on a man’s form to halt the urban sprawl invading his environment, but only endangers his home further as spiritual seekers gather to ask him existential questions.
  4. Comedy/Action: Ellie’s father died years ago, or that’s what she thought until he shows up at the reading of her mother’s will – as a zombie.
  5. Action/Adventure: Deep in the forest, a lost hiker comes across a strange civilization, a group of alien “grays” running from persecution.

I’m not sure if I’ll use these, though I’m very intrigued by a couple of them, especially #3 (it may even be my next movie project), but this exercise shows how when pressed, the mind can come up with all sorts of crazy ideas, ideas that might turn out to be unique and promising.

Also, each idea could go a number of different ways. For example, I put Action/Adventure on #5, but what if I changed that to Comedy? It would be a completely different movie.

If you have time to give this exercise a try, I’d love to hear how it worked for you!

Poetry as Inspiration

When I was a kid, I loved to read, and one of my favourite books was an old leather bound copy of Sir Walter Scott’s poems that I found in the attic. Being a kid, I had little idea of what I was reading, but that didn’t matter. What I liked best was the sound and rhythm of the words, and the feelings they created within me.

This morning, in need of inspiration, I turned to a tiny, very old book that I found in London a few years ago, A Book of Narrative Verse.

My inspiration to write comes from Horatius, by Lord Macaulay. 

And, like a horse unbroken
When first he feels the rein,
The furious river struggled hard,
And tossed his tawny mane,
And burst the curb, and bounded,
Rejoicing to be free,
And whirling down, in fierce career,
Battlement, and plank, and pier,
Rushed headlong to the sea.

How I love these old poems! And this one captures the feeling I get when out on a boat in rough water. It exhilarates me in the same way as riding a racing horse.

And now, bolstered by the magic of words, I go to write–and hopefully to create a little magic of my own.

You know you’re meant to be a novelist when…

You know you’re meant to be a novelist when:

  1. You haven’t written anything for two days, and you fall into the pit of despair.
  2. Your spouse says they’re leaving you, and all you can think is “I can use this.”
  3. Listening to the bickering couple seated behind you on the bus is completely fascinating.
  4. You get entire story ideas, complete with characters, theme, setting, as you sit in the dentist’s waiting room…
  5. … and said story never makes it onto the page because you didn’t have any paper with you and you got an even better idea while your teeth were being cleaned.
  6. You finally get time to write in the afternoon, and minutes later, when you stop, it’s dark outside.

Do you have some more? I’d love to hear them.

CONCEPT with Scott Myers

I’m thrilled. I just got a spot in Scott Myers class on CONCEPT, starting on Monday. Here’s what his website says about the course:

In this 1-week online screenwriting class, you will delve into the mindset of Hollywood studio executives, producers, agents, and managers, and learn time-tested ways to generate and develop story concepts, as well as the means to evaluate them to help you know when you find a winning script idea.

  • Hone your ability to think like a script buyer and see what they look for in a story concept.
  • Workshop your own story concepts through writing assignments targeted toward improving your brainstorming and critical analysis skills.

Scott comes highly recommended as a teacher, so I’m thrilled about being accepted into this class. And I certainly need the help when it comes to understanding concept!

Hello World!

My first post as AY Dorsey. How cool is that?!?!

I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on life, creativity, story, and more. I’m not overly political, so don’t expect many opinions on publishing, though I give no promises. I reserve the right to occasionally dabble.

Also, if you’re interested, have a peek at some of my published works under Creations.

Or sign up to receive an email notification whenver I write a new post, at Subscribe.

Or contact me under… guess where… Contact. I love getting mail!