Many writers seek inspiration in nature. I enjoy snorkeling, picnics on the beach, strolls in the woods and the reflection of mountains on a crystal clear lake. Of course my naturally vampire-pale skin and unique mosquito-lure body chemistry — plus my devotion to indoor plumbing — combine to nix any chances of me being called an “outdoors girl.”
So where do I seek inspiration?
This time of the year I usually spend an hour or so at the end of the day, when the sun is hanging low in the sky, on my Manhattan rooftop with a view of the Empire State Building and the forest of wooden water towers that top the mostly 19th century buildings.
Year-round, I find inspiration in art museums. Yes, art museums! Where else, but in a truly unnatural environment could you find unnatural story ideas?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Frick, The Neue, The International Center of Photography and The Museum of Modern Art are my favorite sources of story fodder in New York. (There are many other wonderful museums in the city, but these are by far the best for my fiction writing habits.)
I often visit MoMA alone and wander through their permanent collection. On a recent visit, I found myself drawn to some familiar old “friends.”
The 1888 “Masks Confronting Death” is a story-in-the-making. The Belgian artist James Ensor, grew up over in his family’s curiosity shop and, to me, death in carnival dress and a silly hat, is right at home amongst the masked revelers. Does death take a stroll when party costumes give him cover in the crowd? Or, are the other figures confronting him and their terror of mortality?
René Magritte’s entire body of surrealistic work can be viewed like a collection of paranormal stories. For a while in college I had a poster of his 1960 “Empire of Light” in my dorm room. (Yes, I was THAT kind of college girl.) In “Empire,” a peaceful house, on a peaceful lamp-lit street at dusk exists in its own bubble of time and space, as the sky above the quiet, darkened street is bright, summer sunlight. Perhaps it is vampire’s magical space where it is always twilight?
Alberto Giacometti’s spare, little tabletop sculpture made of wooden sticks, wire, string and glass in 1932, invites storytellers to imaginative stretches. I’ve been fascinated by this piece for as long as I can remember. A while back I used it in a murder mystery, because to me it’s always told a story about a murderer discovered by chance by a not-too-innocent witness. But having gone to the museum in a paranormal state-of-mind, I reinterpreted the solitary figures, the skeletal remains and the Pterodactyl-like creature hovering in an upstairs room. This time, the story unfolds when a dragon comes home to roost in a mysterious castle. Time and again I return to visit “The Palace at 4am.” It is a masterpiece.
I encourage writers to seek adventure and inspiration inside the world’s great museums [Tweet this!], because art challenges our perceptions of reality and that is a great starting place for paranormal fiction [Tweet this!].
Candy Korman is a self described Story Vampire, drawing inspiration from a wide range of people, places and things. Her most recent addition to the Candy’s Monsters ebook series is POED, a novella inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s scariest stories. You can find POED on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/atk6tfw
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