My turn again for the Blog Chain posting!
Today’s topic was started by the lovely Elana Johnson on Mindless Musings. The question before the group is “How do you get your ideas?”
I, for one, am big into “What if?”.
The inspiration for The Edge of Memory started out in a random way. It began as a tv commercial for an insurance company. I don’t watch much TV, although my husband often has it on while I’m doing other things, but the music from this commercial stuck with me so strongly that I googled it. The song turned out to be “Half-Acre” by a band called Hem.
The song is about your home being a touchstone, but the part of the lyrics that got wedged into my imagination was:
I am holding half an acre
Torn from a map of Michigan
And folded in this scrap of paper
Is the land I grew up in.
Half an acre is not very big– my yard and the yard next door. So I began thinking how a small piece of a detailed map would be practically meaningless out of context. And that led to conceptualizing a person who would need to find this out-of-context place. Why would that place be important to the character? And if it was so important, why wouldn’t she know about it already or remember it?
To have a true attachment to the place, I felt like the character needed to have lived there for a good chunk of time. Of course, the longer she’d lived there, the stronger the connection, but also the less likely she wouldn’t already know about it. So then I had to reason why she wouldn’t remember a place where she’d lived. Using my medical background regarding plausible explanations for memory loss, I knew that I would have to give her a pretty traumatic background. That raised questions: Is it better or worse to remember something traumatic? Does the truth really “set you free”?
As a hospitalist pediatrician (an inpatient specialist), I see the sickest of sick kids. And many of the most striking cases I’ve handled have been for victims of abuse. I see patients who get very sick or die from brain, heart, or lung problems, from cancers, from serious infections. Every bad outcome is tragic in pediatrics, but the difference is that in cases of abuse the problem is purposely inflicted. And unlike the other sick patients who usually have a loving entourage of family and friends at the bedside, the victims of abuse are often alone.
And of course, the effects of child abuse don’t stop once physical wounds are healed. They can suffer from prolonged psychological problems: depression, fear of intimacy, anger problems, substance abuse, eating disorders, and hosts of others. The future can seem grim for child abuse survivors, but I like to believe they can find their way to peace and happiness eventually.
So I resolved to write a story of survival and triumph. And entertain the snot out of the reader along the way, natch.
Short answer… Overanalyzing song lyrics allowed me to tap into my medical experience and my mushy hopes for child abuse survivors. Then I made my story as interesting as I could. 😉
Okay Bloggy Peeps, I’m out. The Next Big Idea is over on Mary Lindsey’s site. Write on!
Filed under: Back on the Chain Gang, musings, novel | Tagged: Back on the Chain Gang, blog chain, music, musings, novel, observation skills, pediatrics, The Edge of Memory, work, writing | 10 Comments »