Friday, 4 September 2015

"Extra-Curricular" Story Prompts

When you're writing a new story just about every week, you need to find inspiration in the things around your daily life. Something in a book, in the news, an image on film or an advert, a song lyric. Anything can be utilised as we writers pounce on it like the magpies we are. So with the forthcoming publication of my fifth collection of flash fiction stories, I thought I'd give the story behind some of the stories, what actually prompted the idea to pop into my head.

"Night Vision"  I am a huge music fan, always on the trawl for new tunes. I'm on a couple of mailing lists for record stores and get weekly new release updates. I usually try and check out any that sound interesting by going to YouTube. Can't remember the band as the music didn't grab me, but their video was of a man's movements in this incredible blued out visual. I don't know if it was thermal imaging or some other design treatment, but it set me thinking. The video really allowed you to see and think about the movements of the human body in a wholly different way.

"Blood Angel" This came about by a striking image in an "X-Men" movie of the character of Jean Grey with her red hair billowing against flames the same hue, so you almost couldn't tell which was hair and which was fire.

"Zombie" In my last collection "28 Far Cries" I wrote a story deconstructing the werewolf myth. Here I take the same treatment to the myth of the zombie and equate it with plastic surgery disasters. I'm not a big one for myths.

"Flea Circus" I'd always known of the existence of flea circuses, but when the phrase was prompted once again in something I was reading, I went and looked up how they were actually constituted. Then it very quickly became the notion of scale as I had human beings performing feats for an audience of giants. There are some great flea circus videos on YouTube.

"Reading For Two" Just the touching gesture of a husband reading to his dying wife as she lapsed into unconsciousness. I was very moved by such an act when I heard about it.

"Phoneanemic" When you sneeze, you are deafened by your own noise and your eyes reflexively lid themselves for protection. If this happens in the middle of a conversation, you lose what is being said through the sneeze. So I had some fun trying to recover the missing meaning effaced by an explosive sneeze!

"Perspective" There is an author called Ben Marcus who writes the most remarkable fiction that pulls and stretches at just how language functions. He has a book called "The Age Of Wire And String" which is never overtly explained, but seems to be a dictionary/anthropological work of an alien species observing the human race on Earth but not quite 'getting' our language. So I wrote this story about aliens observing and interpreting the human race if their guidebook was formed from all the Earth's canon of art criticism. 

"Performance Anxiety" Just from thinking about how quickly our consumer technology becomes obsolete. Remember 8-Track music cartridges, Betamax videos or Sony Walkmans? I do.

"Drones" Many nouns have several shades of slightly differing meaning. The word drone unfortunately in recent parlance has come to stand for only one thing, the military pilotless aircraft. I explore all the other meanings of the word and try and reinstate them alongside the prevalent meaning. When read out live, I try and make the words sound like a drone. 

"Bye Bye Lingual" Periodically you hear of a language in danger of dying out with its last speaker. This is a story to honour that happenstance.

"Rebirth" This came from watching a true crime programme about a victim who was strangled to within an inch of her life and suffered some brain damage from oxygen starvation. The programme was an uplifting portrait of her battle to recover all her faculties as she battled back to have the last victory over her assailant.

"Bas Relief" This did originate from a visual prompt provide by "VisualVerse" of a human brain. Just looking at it I was struck by the notion it could be viewed as lots of human beings compressed and packed one upon another to form a labyrinth.

"Compound Fracture" I've always been fascinated by certain aspects of German grammar even though I don't speak the language. After all, it is closely related to English through their shared Anglo-Saxon roots. I love the concept that if a word for what you're trying to say doesn't exist, you can sculpt it by joining together other words in German. Since I have found myself in this situation as a writer, I went ahead and wrote a story in which I could indulge this ability in English.

"Disbanded" A music video from one of my favourite bands provided the image of a set of skull drums mounted from the hips. 

"Confirmament" I have never understood how the drawings of star constellations of the Zodiac work. So I started imagining what it would be like to redraw them.

"Wings" from a lyric in the Birthday Party song "Mutiny In Heaven"

"Overpass" For some reason I got really hung up on perpendicularity, things crossing one another that otherwise would have had no relationship. I saw it only as an omen of ill, such as when a cat walks across your shadow. The title was a reversal of the word "Passover" which gave me the last paragraph of the story.

"Crowd Sauced" This came from reading about the folk justice meted out through Rough Music
 and wondering about what a contemporary version might look like. Recycling Nazis was my response, even though I happily and assiduously recycle.

"The Disenchanted Forest" Reading about folk symbols and translating them to their modern day equivalent. Some more Umweltverschmutzung  spilling over from "Compound Fracture". It means world pollution, literally 'environmental dirt'.

"In Triplicate" When secretaries had to type in triplicate using carbon papers, I just wondered what it would be like if the 'in triplicate' part was extended to other aspects of life beyond a typewriter. 

"Echoes" Ultrasound images of foetuses, so recognisable, so striking and achingly beautiful and all constructed from sound waves. I've written about the relationship of sound to language and memory before, but this is a story about the relationship of sound to the visual sense and emotions. 

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