Monday, August 24, 2015

News-worthy so Worth a Story

My parents have a Saturday morning routine that hasn't changed as long as I've been alive: wake up and have a cuppa; then go off to the village shop and get the papers; section by section, devour those papers by poring over every story from world news to economics and entertainment. Every article gets guzzled. I never understood it myself as I found most news tedious. I'd flip through and ignore a ton of stories and just read the odd one or two.

Now I love the news and reading about the world, excepting still the economics section which bores me to tedious fact-clobbering death. Some news moves me so much that I've even had to stop reading some news articles on the way to or from work in case they flood the bus in tears. The news is full of terrifying amazing and again terrifying stories of real humans and the world they inhabit, all designed to tug at our emotions. A journalist might work on the reader's worries or fears or indignation or empathy or nostalgia through their presentation of stories. If these real life stories can evoke these feelings in the news-reader, something inspired by them and capturing part of the real world feel of them too can maybe do the same for the fiction-reader.

The news is full of possible inspiration and a few of my story ideas were triggered by the reading of a true story in the paper. However, there are some dangers in this type of inspiration. Take for example this story:

Narendra Dabholkar: India's Maharashtra state bans black magic after killing

I found this story fascinating and it led me to read more and more on the idea of modern day black magic and superstitions and the various crimes that came hand in hand with them. Tiny bits and pieces of different stories ended up rolling around together and forming a tiny nugget of an entirely new story. In the end, the final story ended up being nothing like the original inspiration but the thought process of researching this story had led me to create a whole other one.

Despite the story having changed so much, I felt caution was needed when using any idea formed from a true life situation that had actually happened to an individual and a community and a country. I worried that if the story were too close to reality, it could somehow offend or hurt the people who lived it or be seen as theft of someone's own life story. These worries floated round my mind:

  • Any story inspired by news is more than just a story as it has actually happened to someone, so it must be dealt with sensitively. In this story, a man died and a family lost a family member. Also, a community struggled with this violence and the social implications of these changes. It would be horrid for them to feel like their personal tragedy had been abused or misrepresented or stolen. I decided then that any inspiration that came from the news would focus on the situation, never the person.
  • Also, this story was connected to people's religious beliefs; always a sensitive topic. Therefore, I felt that really in-depth study around the article and the background of the story and the society it was set in was essential even if that information or that story itself might not be used. To avoid causing offence, I felt that I needed to really understand as much about the real story as possible. This could hopefully help avoid giving accidental offence as well as help me write a more authentic situation.
  • And more than anything else, I tried to remind myself that this news story was only an INSPIRATION, a trigger to my own idea rather than a taking of someone else's idea. And that I had no right to take an entire story or an entire situation and transfer it to my story. The news item was the centre of my brainstorming but never the centre of my newly-created story. It was important to remember that I was still creating my own fiction, not stealing someone else's biography.

So...keep your eyes open and your news-brain well informed. 
Other than the economics pages, the news might just inspire you.

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