Last week I sat down with fantasy author Vee James to talk about the creative process. He’s the author of NECCABASHAR, the tale of a young demon climbing the corporate ladder in Hell with hilarious results. (Comedy Channel, take note. This is your next breakout franchise.)
Both Vee and I are often asked the time-honored question of “Where do you get your ideas?” I’ve especially been pinged with questions about the penultimate scene in PACIFIC REAPER, the 5th Detective Emilia Cruz novel. No spoilers, but think desert and double-cross.
Our conversation turned to J.R.R. Tolkien’s explanation for the source of literary inspiration. Writing for the Plumfield and Paideia website, Sara Masarik offered this quote from fellow creative Jonathan Rogers:
“Tolkien talks about the leaf-mould of the mind–those stories and ideas that go into your head and decompose into rich soil from which new stories grow. We don’t always know what has influenced us.” http://www.plumfieldandpaideia.com/something-like-tolkiens-leaf-mould/
That’s exactly how it happens. Small details accumulate like fallen leaves on the forest floor, the input of everything we experience, learn, read, hear, touch, smell, and see. Details are stored away in the back of our minds, more added all the time, without us really conscious of this great gift of accumulated awareness.
Related post: 10 Tips to amp up your creativity
I think a writer best uses the “leaf mould” that comes out of the process of accumulation by having an “open mind,” not only in terms of what we absorb, but how we process.
An open mind allows us to pair disparate details to end up with something new. Random connections. Mix and match.
For example, I paired my own experience teaching in a prison (yes, you read that right) with a nervous stroll through a bad neighborhood in Mexico to create the pivotal scene in KING PESO in which Emilia visits her incarcerated partner Franco Silvio.
Sometimes pairing disparate details comes naturally. Other times we have to grab and smash them together to have a story bigger than the separate bits.