Monday, 16 May 2011

The Muse; or, Where Do The Ideas Come From?

The most frequent question addressed to writers is: where do you get your ideas from? Well, I can now exclusively answer that question. Let me let the uninitiated into a little secret. No writer is responsible for his own work. There are a very small number of Independent Muses and Imagineers living across the world, who construct all fiction that is ever written. If you have ambitions to be a writer, you simply approach them and they provide you with a suitable manuscript, short story, book or script - whatever you require. It was the film director and screen writer Woody Allen who let the cat out of the bag, as it were, when he was asked where his ideas came from. It was a man in China who mailed his ideas to him, and it was that man in China that I decided to seek out when I decided to become a writer.

I don't actually write my own work, in fact its a Chinese gentleman by the name of Zhiang Miao who is responsible for my scribblings. We have a relationship of convenience: he does all the work, and I'll be the one getting all the credit and any profits (unlikely at the moment but you never know!)

Of course Zhiang Miao also writes all my blog/journal entries and he is the one responsible for this text that you are reading at this very moment- so I can't entirely vouch for the veracity of what you are about to read. However, to all intents and purposes, and having researched the extent of Zhiang Miao's remarkable vision and imaginative mind, as far as I am aware it is...almost true.

I first heard of Zhiang Miao when I was reading my edition of 'Writers Monthly' and I saw his services to create authors advertised there. All that was required was for me to visit his hut on the shores of Lake Tianchi in Jilin Province. I quickly made flight arrangements to Beijing, and hitch-hiked my way to that area in north-east China, and to Zhiang Miao's lakeside home.

I found Zhiang Miao there, surrounded by piles of unpublished manuscripts and scripts relating to various different genres and written in a multitude of languages, soaring up toward the ceiling of his hut, which was ten feet up from the boards of the wooden floor. He was a small man with a mop of greying hair, and he wore a white shirt and black trousers. He also had a small pair of spectacles perched on the tip of his nose. He sat scribbling at a desk, writing with a quill on a sheet of paper, while taking swigs from a can of Red Bull at irregular intervals and breathing in curious noxious yellow fumes from a metallic canister. Empty cans of Red Bull littered the floor at his feet. This was presumably to keep him creative and inspired. Upon seeing me at the door to his hut, he paused at his work and indicated that I enter. He wiped a bead of sweat from his brow and removed his spectacles. "American?" he asked, recognising me as a foreigner.

I shook my head. "English."

"Ah! You have the look of an American, a young man from Minnesota no less", he said. "I was wrong, you are a Britisher. I presume you are from London?" I nodded.

"Greetings my British friend!" he said. "How may I help you? You want something written?"

"Yes", I said. "I would like to be a successful, published writer."

"I see", he said with a sigh. "What kind of writing?"

"Well, I would like to be a horror, fantasy or science fiction writer", I told him.

Zhiang Miao suddenly let out a horrendous, ear-piercing shriek. He leapt to his feet and began to run around his hut in some kind of state of hysterical mania, screaming and gibbering continuously. Finally, he fell silent and sat down at his desk once again. It appeared that the hysteria had passed, but he placed his head in his hands.

"Dear me, what is the matter with you?" I asked him.

"Do forgive me", Zhiang Miao said. He looked toward me again, and without his glasses I suddenly thought that he looked weary and old beyond his actual years. "I do receive...many requests...for those genres."

"I see", I said, although in truth I was not quite sure what he meant. I was beginning to feel some concern that he would be unable to help me. "I hope that this won't be a problem..."

"It shouldn't be", Zhiang Miao sighed. I was relieved to see that he had become calm once again. "So what did you have in mind exactly for your first book?"

"I'm thinking that it should be a fantasy novel", I told him eagerly. "Maybe a quest-adventure of some kind, magical beings, throw some aliens in for good measure-"

I was interrupted once more in dramatic fashion, as Zhiang Miao began to scream incessantly again. I waited in a state of half-surprise, half-amusement as he scuttled around his room, gibbering incoherently. Once it seemed that he had managed to control his faculties once more and enter a semblance of calm, I attempted to make further conversation with him.

"Can you do it?" I asked.

"Magic! It's always bloody magic isn't it?! After Harry bloody Potter they all want bloody magicians these days!" Zhiang Miao said, gasping and mopping at his damp brow with a handkerchief he'd kept folded in the breast pocket of his crisp white cotton shirt. "I suppose you want some bloody elves in it as well, don't you?"

", I don't think I will bother with elves..." I told him uncertainly. By this stage, I was beginning to worry about the mental state of my so-called 'muse'.

"Good, well that's something I suppose", he said. "I am sick and tired of writing about bloody elves. I hate the slimy pointy-eared gits. Two-faced snobs. You got that?"

"Yes", I said. "I understand. No elves."

"And do you want any of those little beardy gits with axes in your book?"

"You mean dwarves?" I asked. "No, no dwarves. I'm not bothered about them."

"Good." Zhiang Miao now seemed to have almost recovered his composure entirely. He went to his desk, took an inhaler for asthma out of the drawer, and sucked on it until his breathing was back to normal again. "Right. I think I can put something together for you. What's your name?"

"Steve Mace", I told him.

"Very well, Mr Mace", he said. "I have a title for you. Copper Moon Rising. How does that sound?"

"Nice title", I replied approvingly.

"Thanks. I'll come up with the book for you within a week."

"A week? That's fantastic!" I said.

"Don't expect it to be a work of genius or an original masterpiece though", he warned me. "I've got to fit you in around some more famous and respected people who come to me for their ideas. They'll have to take priority. When it comes to all of my clients, you're somewhere near the bottom of the list. The other week I had Katie Price and Danielle Steele standing where you are now. I'll write a passable fantasy/SF novel for you in about a week. Just don't expect it to be as good as anything by Isaac bloody Asimov or Tolkien. OK, Mr Mace?"

I had no choice but to simply agree to Zhiang Miao's harsh terms. After all, my head was empty of ideas and I had spent many long nights in front of my laptop and word-processor staring at a blank screen, willing the ideas to come, trying my best to force inspired words to appear on a white page that mocked me with its emptiness.

Fortunately for me, Zhiang Miao was true to his word, and the final draft of 'Copper Moon Rising' duly landed on the mat below my letter-box a week later, delivered by the postman. I read it and started to wonder how Zhiang managed to find his wonderful inspiration. "So", I asked him when I visited him several months later. "Where do you get your ideas from?"

"I don't know, Mr Mace..." he replied dreamily. "They just come to the quiet of the dead of night or the bright, relentless sunshine of doesn't matter where or when."

I can highly recommend Zhiang Miao's services to any other fellow writer who is short of ideas or suffering from writer's block. All you need to get in touch with him are: a packet of crayons, a Rizla, a mint polo, a can of Red Bull, a ouija board, a rubix cube and a Maxwell's demon. Good luck to all of you!

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