Nuggets – things I grew up thinking were chunks of chickens, not chunks of gold – are where I get my ideas. Writers say they get their ideas from the world around them, from other books, or from research. Okay. But aren’t you mainly just inspired by a nugget? A truth, often simple, generally arrived at on the toilet or in the shower, and in popular culture featured on Twitter. Nuggets! I get my ideas from writing down nuggets, and then trying to recreate the bird.
Oh, what fun writing can be if you only draw one eye and have to uncover the rest of the decomposing body. What a joy it can be when you realize that you don’t have all the pieces, and the reader won’t either, and that this arm and this leg and part of this torso are all your story needs. It’s a way of discovering the ending too: what is left to tell? What should be left untold?
I tried writing a fantasy story today. It may have worked. Fantasy feels like history, as though you need a keen sense of what has come before and what rules are required of you before you begin. But today I let myself go (which is really my only mode of writing, a loose, lazy letting go of self never really followed by a catch). And out came this spool of a story that had wings, and monsters, but was still a peephole into our own world, which I think all good fantasy must be.
I know fantasy through Neil Gaiman and children’s literature. What I know from reading these books is that a world needs to be clear to the writer, and the boundaries and parameters of that world need to be divulged to the reader as soon as possible. But I also know that with a new world comes new discoveries, and unexpected surprises, and it seems that the beauty in writing this kind of fiction would be in seeing those nuggets you’ve created grow into something you’ve never heard of before but have, unwittingly, invented.
I wonder how far the story I started today will take me, how long I’ll write this blog for, or what one day I’ll think of when I hear the word nugget, but what I know is without these suggestions at truth there is no story at all. I also know that when I read a story I can find the nugget, and it gives me almost the same passion as the writer had to dig deeper, to know more. I’m reading Kafka on the Shore. 15 school children fell down all at once, hypnotized. I just finished The World Before Us. Ghosts follow one person around, trying to find out who they are. Think of Karl Ove: what if I wrote a truthful, detailed account of all of me? Nuggets: they are what stories are made from and why they are alive.