Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Running into a Story

image credit: thebrandweavers.blogspot.com
What I love the most about New York City is the fact that one doesn't have to travel the world if he or she is in New York: the world travels around him or her instead. Tonight Joyce Carol Oates, the distinguished, award-winning American writer and the guest speaker at Hunter College, appeared on my horizon as a solemn moon evoking the thoughts of creativity and inspiration. She spoke to the audience about literary inspiration, beginning with authors like Katherine Mansfield and Hermann Melville, and also sharing some of her own, for example, she admitted that looking at a picture of Marilyn Monroe in her teens moved her to do some research and resulted in her novel, Blonde. The author also mentioned that to some writers, inspiration comes in a dream (which as she confessed, has never happened to her), or through the first line that pops up out of nowhere and might make no sense at first. We all have our own ways of running into a story, or even sometimes let the story run into us, in the most unexpected ways.

There are stories that begin with a character: a real person that fascinates us, or an imaginary one, sort of a sweater to be knitted, with no hole to be left somewhere in the middle. There are also plot-driven stories where the action is more important than those who take part in it; these can be compared to a beautiful mansion we admire when passing by without having a clue to whom it belongs. And finally, some stories are erupted out of a single line, and idea that yearns for development, a sound rebellion against an empty page, and at the same time, a forest trail that might lead to a beautiful lake, or to a wolf hungry for some fresh meat. We will never know until we start running along the trail, hoping for a happy ending, hopefully a publication, or at least, some recognition of our creativity.

When I walk around New York, I seldom pay attention to faces around me. Paying attention to faces is often punished: people immediately start a conversation, or ask for some change. But at the same time, as a writer, I always try to catch a glimpse of life, of human happiness and misery, and to reflect what I saw on the pages of word documents spread around the screen of my laptop like stars on the midnight sky. Last week one of the tiny stars appeared on The Rusty Nail magazine's web page, which makes me proud and happy: at least, now there is something besides my passport that bears my name.

"Is it about you?" a few people asked me.

The thing is, sometimes we run into a story on a hideous street corner, and it bumps into us like a rude stranger strolling right through, and it is really up to us how much truth we let it keep, and how much input our imagination will provide. Let the readers create their own myths. Admit to it or deny it - all that matters is whether your story outlives you, or vanishes like a bird song into thin air before you do. 

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