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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Inspiration Versus Imagination - Dabblers

I picked up the final files for "Dabblers" prior to publication on November 1 (as long as Frankenstorm on the east coast doesn't bring any delays). With the release date so near, I thought I might reflect on the inspirations for the story.

NO SPOILERS. I'm not going to give away anything critical here. These are just some of the bits and pieces   which wound up woven into the story.

Uncle Hank's House: In my mind, it looks like a 1950s brick ranch I used to live in some years ago, although it was not near a lake. Even the interior layout, which Stefanie describes, matches that house.

The Pool: An important element late in the book. Another house I lived in, the one where "Dabblers" first became a notion, had a pool just like it.

The Altar: Another important place that kinda sorta exists. At the same house as the pool, there are some stone slabs embedded in the middle of the back lawn, somewhat distant from the house. Never did figure out what they were doing there, other than perhaps to provide a solid foundation for a picnic table. Of course, the rest of its appearance in the book is quite different.

Windsong Lake: Inspired by a neighborhood we looked at when shopping for the house with the pool. It had  houses surrounding a small lake and had the feel of a summer getaway place. The real-life place does not actually constitute a full town, just a neighborhood, but it still exists out in the Northern Illinois countryside, same as Windsong Lake. I later embellished Windsong Lake with details drawn from Lake Zurich, Illinois, not far away.

Pagan Religions: Not part of the initial story line, but it became so when a couple of friends became deeply interested in Wicca. They gave me a book as a gift, the title of which appears in "Dabblers", and it served as a valuable resource for writing it.

Stefanie's Dream: Not the one that begins the book, but one she relates deeper into the story. It's a permutation of a dream I had as a girl, one that shook me up because the "me" in the dream was a different person from my waking self. Didn't even look the same. I adapted the threatening aspects to Stefanie's dream and embroidered around it with imagination.

Someone at the Joliet Author Fair stopped at my table to chat and asked me if my characters are based on people I have known or met. The answer is a resounding "no." Story comes first, the hint of a plot, a puzzle to unravel, a mood to be captured. Naturally, my characters--at least the one(s) telling the story--must be part of me because I imagined them. I have never yet had a situation where I was inspired to create a story around a "character" from real life. Once I have the idea for the heart of the story, the characters develop alongside it to provide what is needed to shape the tale. At some point, characters take on a life of their own, become more independent of me in a way, and in so doing, they can alter the path of the story. While re-editing "Dabblers" this last time around, going over the manuscript I wrote four or five years ago, I decided I did not like Stefanie very much the way I first wrote her. She seemed weak, helpless, and having those traits in my POV character offended me. So I changed things around, made her path of discovery into one of acceptance instead. I don't see how I could have done that with a character drawn from life whose nature would resist changing to suit my story. Heaven forbid I should be limited in the story because it had to adhere to the traits of a real person and then find out I did not like the story!

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