Friday, June 16, 2006

The Writer's Road: Loading up my Possibles Bag

I've been to Bear Butte in South Dakota many times. I've also visited Vatican City. They're both amazing. I found so much to inspire me intellectually at the Vatican. But Bear Butte is something else. Because of the way it stands alone, making its silent, timeless statement, Bear Butte strikes me the way it probably does most people--straight to the heart. It stirs my soul. No wonder it's a sacred site for the Lakota. It's part of the National Park System, and it is park policy to show due respect for those who go to the mountain to pray. Prayer ties fill the bushes, and visitors are steered away from those who would be left alone in prayer.

I opened Wednesday's Minneapolis Star Tribune and there it was. The picture was worth all those thousand words--the sky, the land, the horses grazing at the base of the butte. The headline: NEAR STURGIS, A FIGHT OVER THE SACRED. It seems that a developer wants to repace the pasture at the base of the butte with two complexes designed to cater to the annual motorcycle rally. Biker bars and other entertainment venues. Below the picture of the butte is another photo--an Indian in full regalia and a white man wearing a white cowboy hat. I know the Indian. He's the pipe carrier who has inspired a couple of characters for me. I don't know the cowboy/developer personally, but the picture speaks volumes, and I can already see him as a character. Contrast. Conflict. Irony. History. Pathos. "The people are not defeated until the hearts of their women are on the ground," say the Lakota. Nothing touches me more than a story about a heroic underdog.

So Wednesday's paper goes into my file. Like the mountain men of old, I call it my "possibles bag." My files are my oyster shells, and I load them up with grains of sand. This one has particularly sharp edges.

We're bombarded with information every day, but sometimes a chunk of it hits you square between the eyes, doesn't it? Bam. Lightning. Meteor. Has anyone else made one of those connections lately?


Helen Brenna said...

Nothing that I can think of lately, Kathy, but years ago I read a newspaper article that planted the seed for the plot of my 3rd manuscript and my first sale!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Don't stop there, Helen! I'm curious about the article and maybe just a hint about that little seed.

Helen Brenna said...

Okay, okay, now that you twisted my leg!

I read an article about Mel Fisher discovering the mother lode of Spanish galleons off the coast of Florida, we're talking billions worth of treasure. He'd been looking for it for years and had found all the other ships in the flotilla except the Atocha. His son and daughter-in-law even died in the process of looking for it.

I thought, "What if this mother-lode of galleons wasn't at all where it was supposed to be? Wouldn't that make for an interesting adventure?"

Add a cursed Spanish cross and a heroine who knew where to find my fictitious ship and the seeds were firmly planted for TREASURE.

Needless to say, I had a great time researching the book.

anne frasier said...

helen, that sounds fascinating! i love that kind of thing.

i'm always collecting those shells. My books tend to be pretty violent, and I tend to collect a lot of sick things that I won't go into here for fear of grossing people out. I have files of true crime. sometimes people will send me a story that's just come over the wire and seems to be screaming my name. it usually is. i don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing when a friend reads about some horrendous act and immediately thinks of me. :D