Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ideas that stick with you

In the last couple of weeks I've been reading with my kids a book that I just adored when I was a little girl, but which you may not have heard of - The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle. It has a folk tale/fairy tale type story for each of the twenty-four hours of the day, each one beautifully illustrated and preceded by a short poem about what happens at that hour. For example, at one o'clock in the morning the cat goes creepy-creep through the darkened house and finds everyone asleep.

I must have read this book ten times, but haven't read it in years. Now that I'm picking it up again, I'm discovering there are ideas in it that I use even today, in one form or another. The one that springs out as most active for me today comes from astory called "The Water of Life." In it, there's a faithful servant who is willing to do all kinds of heroic deeds for his master, but then the master wants to take credit for them so badly that he even goes to the extent of cutting off his servant's hand (!) so he can wear the servant's armlet and pretend to be the one who did these heroic deeds. Fortunately, things work out so that the servant is vindicated, and even gets his hand back. But I can recognize the roots of my fascination with the role of the faithful servant - and in particular, what motivates them to be so faithful (something that wasn't dealt with at all in this story) - coming from when I was a child.

Authors very often get asked where they get their ideas. I've posted before about where I get them - a little bit of everywhere. But when we work with children, it's important to realize how formative those early books are, and how much they influence our ideas on a fundamental level. I don't have so many SF books I read as a teen which I remember as having influenced me - though indeed, I do have a few. It's interesting for me, though, to discover a little something about where my first writing ideas were born, years before I started to write my own serious fiction. You never know when something will inspire you and pique your curiosity, and the effects can last a lifetime.