By Darvell Hunt
Last week in Las Vegas, I was propositioned by a prostitute in the parking lot of my hotel. This was the first time I have been offered the services of the oldest profession. It was a new experience for me and I’ve always been interested in new experiences.
One of the most common questions I hear writers being asked is: Where do you get your ideas?
I’ve heard lots of answers to this question over the years, but if I’m ever asked it, I have a simple one-word answer:
The job of a fiction writer is to write truths about life in the form of lies. We, as fiction writers, try to write stories that aren’t true, but sound true. But how can we do that? By writing about true things we observe from life.
My best stories have been inspired by true-life events, but enhanced by what could have, would have, or should have happened, in order to make the story more interesting or more powerful. In other words, we tell a tall tale, conjure up a fish story, or just simply exaggerate the facts, and pass it off as truth. Well, as fiction, anyway.
I don’t know if I’ll ever write a story about a character who gets propositioned by a prostitute in a hotel parking lot in Las Vegas, but at least I know the details of how it could happen. Since I promptly said, “No, thanks, I’m good!” I don’t know how the story would have gone from there, but as a fiction writer, I have lots of possibilities. This experience could be the first page of a mystery, a thriller, a comedy, and, yes, even a romance, depending on what other “true-life components” I decide to mix into the story (but most likely it will not become an LDS romance story, but, you know, given the right details, it could be).
If you tell the truth when you write, you have non-fiction. If you tell the truth, but lie about the details, you have fiction.
I hope you have weird experiences in your life, so your writing will be more interesting and more compelling. And, better yet, I hope you will have the insight to recognize those treasured moments for what they are: ideas for writing.