The Stories, They All Sound the Same (Off The Grid: Day 10)

My brain is seething. I'm bubbling with hundreds of new ideas. They just keep welling up.
Perhaps it's possible to control thoughts to a certain extent, but to stop thinking is asking too much. My head is teeming with beguiling notions, I'm not able to fix them before they're ousted by new thoughts. I can't keep them apart.
I'm rarely able to remember my thoughts. Before I manage to dwell on one of my inspirations, it generally melts into an even better idea, but this, too, is so fickle of character that I struggle to save it from the constant volcanic stream of new ideas...
I read the opening paragraphs of Jostein Gardner's The Ringmaster's Daughter and my mind instantly recalls the dozens of notebooks filled with half-baked ideas, the pages and pages of synopses, each unique and pertaining to a specific story, typed up on my laptop.

I throw a glance at my window, to make sure Jostein Gardner isn't somehow keeping an eye on me. I feel vulnerable, exposed. Like someone decided to write about me on paper.  I feel a strange relation to his character who as you can probably tell, is something of a writer.

Then I think of every other fictional aspiring writer I've seen/read and realize I'm probably just a mass of their quirks and idiosyncrasies. I'm a collection of writer stereotypes. Except maybe for that whole childhood trauma aspect...

This "writer" brought to life in The Ringmaster's Daughter is named Petter, and I do share his pain. Whenever I let my brain roam too far it just starts churning, spitting out ideas and stories. I can write out a synopsis fairly easy. My ideas usually start out being so abstract -- a random scene here, a piece of dialogue there. I can expand it, detail it, to as long as 4-5 pages, at best. When I try to expand it even further, that's when I fumble with the words.

I suppose I lack the focus to write a novel. Like Petter, I also lack patience and soundness of mind. Sitting still in front of a desk can be unnerving. More often then not it feels like a waste of time, it's frustrating and tedious. No sooner after I begin typing, my mind is racing farther ahead. My hands may be set on writing down one scene, yet my brain is already working on another.

There's one aspect where I Petter and I differ. I'm unshakeable on my becoming a writer, despite the difficulties. Petter however, doesn't see the point. He has no intention of becoming a writer. He finds it a shame though, when his ideas are left untouched. That's when he comes up with a strange business idea. He'll sell his ideas, make his living out of it. Sell ideas and stories to aspiring writers who find themselves with nothing to say.

Little Petter Spider becomes the cure for the dreaded writer's block, weaving his own web of manipulation.
At last I've decided what I want to be. I shall continue doing what I've always done, but from now on I'll make a living out of it. I don't feel the need to be famous, that's an important consideration, but I could still become extremely rich.
Petter starts out as a very precocious child. He learns to talk and read and write before the age of four. He's quiet and in his head. He's creative, definitely. But he is also pretty damaged.

When he starts to decide to sell his ideas, through this ominous platform he dubs "Writer's Aid", it's a dubious trade. Petter cherished anonimity above everything, and although what he's trying to sell is something that's in demand in the writing community, he knows there's a risk. A risk of getting caught, being mistrusted and hunted down.

He pays attention to make his clients feel exclusive to his services when they're not. He builds up their trust, makes them believe he'll never spill the beans. Little Petter Spider catches his victims within his web with promises not to eat them. All the while he thinks he's doing them -- and himself -- a great service.

And I strangely found myself agreeing with him. That what he's doing is almost justified.

It's interesting to see into Petter's psyche. Although he was quiet and unsociable as a child, he grew up to be quite the people person. He's amiable, able to carry a conversation. But at times he simply uses that to his advantage. Every writer, editor, friend is merely an expansion of his network. A business opportunity, or a casual relationship to make him feel less lonely when he wants company. Some might call him a sociopath.

The result of this casual approach to relationships leads him to trouble, as we find out in the final chapters of the book.

He has pretty eccentric views. Jostein Gardner is known for being philisophical in his writings, and seeing some views from Petter sets the mind going. The thing about Petter is that he's a story-teller. And so projects these view in short stories he tells throughout the course of the novel.

All in all, I loved The Ringmaster's Daughter. It's thought-provoking and insightful, with a touch of fantasy. Some might find the material a bit heavy, but it's worth the read. Petter is a complex character, the kind reader's would love to unravel as they read. The plot was original, cohesive. A must-read really, for writers.

(My name was eerily mentioned in the book, which was just unnerving and let's hope not foretelling)

There's one specific aspect of the story which I find interesting. While selling in Writer's Aid, Petter made sure he never sold the same idea twice, to prevent suspicion. But as the book came to the end, ironically, I realized there were parallels spreading throughout the entire thing. I began to see how a short story told when he was older happened to correspond to things that happened to him as kid, and vice versa, a story he told when he was younger strangely related to something that happened later in his life.

A coincidence? Maybe. But then again, maybe not.

There's a huge debate in the writing world on whether or not anything anyone comes up is really "original" at all. Like Sherlock Holmes once said, "There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before."

Somewhere out there, someone's falling for their best friend. Someone is cheating on someone they love. A little kid is chasing their dream. Someone's getting married, getting divorced. Someone's celebrating a birthday, going to a concert. Someone's fighting for what they believe in. Someone's moving to another country. Someone's taking a leap of faith.

It's a weird thing when you think about. But it's undeniable too. They may differ in the details, but when you strip down the stories, they all sound the same.

And that makes me wonder whether I have anything worth saying at all.

--Karin Novelia, Just Bursting With Ideas


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