Monday, April 14, 2008

Nonfiction: its not just for research anymore

Shelving books in a library can be dangerous. I don't get to do it much anymore because we have the most fantastic page who keeps the carts clean. I swear she's got a clone tucked away somewhere! But when I do shelve, I have to restrain myself from bringing back as much as I put away. I have found interesting things in almost every dewey decimal area, and most of it has influenced my writing in one way or the other.

The me from ten years ago would never have believed the me of today would be a non-fiction reader. She was strictly a novel girl unless forced to write an article or paper that required research. Today, I see non-fiction as treasure. You never know what you're going to stumble across that will spark your imagination.

Inspiration is random and very subjective. And sometimes the more you force it, the less inspired you'll be. But you can guide it a little bit. Most of us expose ourselves to television news, documentaries, newspapers, new experiences, and new people just to give inspiration a chance to hit us over the head with something brilliant. I get just as many inspiration-related head injuries in the non-fiction sections of libraries and bookstores as I do with those other things.

For example, the book Done and Been: steel rail chronicles of American hobos by Gypsy Moon inspired my current WIP about a stranded woman struggling to get home to her daughter who is assisted by the hobo community, most of whom are more magical than they seem. King of the Gypsies by Peter Maas prompted a really bad early epic fantasy that I'm trying to disown. The Miami Indians of Indiana by Stewart Rafert gave the spark for Voice of the Bard. Blowing My Cover: my life as a CIA spy by Lyndsay Moran was responsible for a short story I'm editing, and The Feline Mystique: on the mysterious connection between women and cats by Clea Simon inspired a YA fantasy still in the planning stages. None of these works would exist without the non-fiction books acting as idea catalysts.

I don't have a formula for picking non-fiction for inspiration, but I can tell you what I do. I grab things that catch my eye. Sometimes I seek out books that I don't know much about, and sometimes I look for things on subjects in which I'm interested or familiar.

Do you read non-fiction for pleasure? Which titles have inspired you?
Reading For Writers
Starting May 15th - Abusing the TBR Pile
Every month, I'll post a genre-specific book list for genre fiction writers and readers. The best part? Title Magic readers'll have a chance to win their choice of book from that month's list, just for commenting. Free stuff, for the win!


yacoob said...

Depending upon our requirement we can have the material of shelves. Shelves are used for keeping things similar to books, kitchen appliances, industrial products and files in a very small space. Shelves is one of the best ways with which you can store, arrange, organize and move things.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

For Christmas one year my mom got me a book called "Cultural Literacy". I've used that book so many times for inspiration and to confirm facts. She also got me a book of ancient maps that has inspired some tales. Great post, Mel!

Savanna Kougar said...

I agree, great post, Mel. I've always read as much non-fiction as fiction just because I love learning, and there are so many fascinating subjects. Most of my stories are inspired by non-fiction books as much or more than fiction books.

Clea Simon said...

Hey, I'm glad my book sparked something for you. Have you written that YA yet?