It’s funny where you get your ideas from.
And by “funny”, I mean perfectly logical and reasonable. That’s the thing about developing a certain self-reflexivity towards your writing; you can see where the connections have been made.
Not all the time, of course, but there have been moments over the past few days when I’ve been very much present and correct at the point of origin of a couple of ideas. Usually they come flying out of the ether without any seeming effort on your part: So I suddenly want to do an audio drama now? Where on earth did that idea come from? If I remember correctly, Terry Pratchett has written about those little packets of inspiration whizzing about space and time, occasionally happening to bounce around some fortunate mortal’s head for a couple of seconds. It’s a good explaination.
Yesterday, I was inspired by those “Missing: Cat” posters. There are a couple along the street, and even a “Found: Cat” variation, which is always heartening to see. But I also had what could possibly contend for the Saddest Thought in the World in relation to the posters, which I’m going to save up for the best possible moment to unleash upon an unsuspecting audience.
Today, I’ve been thinking about a short script I wrote for an upcoming Wingless Films project. It’s a spy film, inspired broadly by Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, though the story itself has gone through several changes. Initially it was all about betrayal and power struggles, then I squeezed in a little subtext about fathers losing sons. Now it’s about not fitting in, which I admit is an odd choice.
I’ve worked out that it came from a group meeting I attended last week. The South West Screenwriters’ & Storytellers’ Group in Plymouth, who have been meeting for a good couple of years now, though the pre-Christmas meet-up was the first I’d heard of it. I went along to the obtuse little room lost in the backwaters of the Arts College building, and met some edifyingly creative and down-to-earth people — one via the magic of Skype. Incidentally, we also watched a short by local filmmaker Tom Austin, called Dog-Collar Criminal, which I highly recommend learning more about.
But anyway: To the point. Obviously, entering an established group for the first time means a bit of adjustment. It was not at all a bad experience, but I found myself watching references go flying a fair few feet over my head throughout, which I think is what informed the script idea. I even wrote the room itself into the story; I had it in my mind’s eye while writing the confrontation between my character and the (possibly titular) Whistleblower.
The character is a newcomer as well; into the world of international politics that stands as a bit of a homage to Le Carre’s Circus. Before the meeting, this character didn’t exist; the focus was on the George Smiley-a-like at the head of the table. Now it’s the junior looking nervous in the corner. I think it makes for a better (and by better I mean more interesting) story. We’ll have to see if that’s true sometime in 2012.
I find it interesting that the source of my inspiration wasn’t apparent at the time of writing; I didn’t make the connection immediately, despite knowing full well I was including that room. Of course, the correlation isn’t completely direct; as I said, it was a positive experience for me, so the fish-out-of-water character is more an invention than an imitation, but the seed forms a fairly definitive root. Here’s to ideas.