Monday, May 23, 2011

Stories closer to home

A common question for writers is "where do you get your stories from?" Not so easy to answer. For me, I usually "see" a scene in my mind's eye and if I keep seeing it I try and work out what it means. From that a whole script may grow. Pretty abstract, hey? 

Sure, I've been known to cut out stories from the newspaper (it's like an iPad but without silicon); jot things down in note books; 'borrow' snippets of conversation etc but there's no more powerful stimulus than a visual image or indeed entire scene playing out in your head.

They say, "write what you know" and maybe part of that is the subconscious sense of who you are and where you come from. I mention this as I had lunch down at my parents place on Friday and Dad gave me two CDs (insert iPod gag here) of two interviews he had given to a local historian. This was as part of the Oral History Program for the Cottesloe Library. All up, two hours and twenty minutes of him talking about everything from his childhood to the local neighbourhood to the jobs he has held. 

Now a lot of this I have heard in one form or another but Dad is nothing if not garrulous and the interviewer was drawing out all sorts of tales, particularly when he was a child. How there was a heavy teak table covered with drapes, rations stored underneath, that was to be used as a rudimentary shelter in the advent of an air raid during the Second World War. How there used to be a brothel in the street at number 19 but the taxis would sometimes drop off American soldiers at number 9 which is where his future wife (aka mum) lived with her older sisters which caused all sorts of problems.

I knew he had worked at the Civic Centre but did not know he was there when the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip) was in Perth for the Empire Games in 1962. He also heard the machinations of the vote for the awarding of the 1966 Games to Kingston, Jamaica. And so on. What it was like growing up during those times, working on a farm in Wickepin, how the owners of a store in Cottesloe where my grandmother used to work swear they saw her ghost and described her perfectly. How he chased off who he is sure was Eric Edgar Cooke when they lived in Claremont. 

I'm only half way through but it's fascinating and comforting in a way to be able to hear all this. His story. Told with typical understated humour and occasional mischievousness. I'm not at the part yet where I arrive on the scene so that could make for interesting listening. As will mum and dad's wedding which flirted with all sorts of sitcom-esque type disasters (but all's well that ends well). And undoubtedly stories I have not heard before.

Just maybe all this might provide a clue to where I get my stories from... 

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