Where do stories come from?
The main theme of my new novel Storyland is discussing where stories come from. Of course, as a writer, I wonder where the "stories" come from. However, I think this is a question that can be extended into other creative pursuits. Where do paintings come from? Where do songs come from? Where do [fill in the blank] come from? We creative types have brains that I feel work differently from others and I love watching the creative process in someone composing a song, poem, or painting something.
Of course, I think we are all born with this ability. Even the most non-fun adult that you know (the kind who seems to have no imagination at all) probably had a time when they were kids where they spent time playing games all by themselves. We all had toys we played with and made up stories about what they were doing. Half the time (most of the time?) they probably made little sense to anyone outside of our little group or beyond ourselves, but you still came up with those stories.
What happens to us as adults that causes us to lose our connection to the real-life Storyland? I think that we get it sort of beaten out of us. As we get older, we are repeatedly told to "grow up" and "act like an adult" and that seems to mean we can no longer let our imaginations fly free. We tether them to something called "reality."
Of course, "reality" itself may be nothing more than a construct of our imagination. There is a branch of theoretical science that ponders this. Perhaps you've heard of Schrodinger's cat? The idea is that two realities (or more than two) exist at the same time, until our minds gaze upon the reality it wants to accept and then all of the alternate realities collapse and the one we've chosen becomes the accepted reality. However, some have theorized that maybe every single decision we make creates an alternate reality where all other possible decisions play out. That each of us may carry with us an infinite number of parallel worlds with us at all times, with alternate versions of ourselves living similar, but different, lives due to variations in each decision. You chose a bagel over toast this morning, but that created a different reality where the alternate you ate toast and because of that, had an entirely different day.
I find it so sad when I run into an adult who dismisses a branch of fiction. Oh, I don't like sci-fi, they might say. Or, I'm not a big fan of the fantasy stuff. Or, I don't really like horror or ghost stories or vampires or - whatever. To me, that shuts off and kills a part of your own mind. Our minds are more than the organ that sits in our skull. Our brains are like the TARDIS from Doctor Who - the brain houses inside of it a vast space that never ends - unless we start walling it off and killing parts of it.
I have long subscribed to the theory that the stories I write tell themselves to me. I am just a conduit for them. I get bolts from the blue a lot and when it happens, the stories just flow out of me. I will never understand my author friends who force themselves to write stories of a certain topic in order to step into the flow of what's popular. Yeah, sure, they can make money writing and not getting a "real" job, but they are also handcuffing their imaginations I feel. They are forcing their brains into hard labor rather than letting it run free range.
Storyland started out as a novel I tentatively titled Portal, which was going to explore the possibility that the doorway into imagination was a real thing that could manifest in the "real" world. Over time, that changed and it became one of the darkest novels I've ever written with two of the most disturbing scenes I have ever concocted.
So, where did that come from? I think it came from somewhere else. I'm not saying Storyland is a real thing, but that those of us who truly unleash our creative powers have kept that conduit that we are all born with open and flowing in both directions. We feed something into it, and it feeds things back to us. Whether that comes out as a short story, poem, song, painting, drawing or - whatever.
I find joy in being able to tap into that, even though my preference is to wade into the darker waters and roaring streams of the dark side of life. In the flow that courses through my head, murderers lurk, monsters growl and that hand under the bed is all too real. For me, that allows me to deal with the horrors of the real world (and the real world horrors always end up being more terrifying than anything in my imagination) better. I find that channeling my own darkness into those stories cleanses me of them. Which is a good thing.
I guess, in the end, I don't know for sure where the stories come from. I prefer to think it is a vast universal flow of collective consciousness. That it's all there for any of us to use. So that, after I am gone, that flow will still be there, and a new generation will come along and use it.