It is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed.
Vida Dutton Scudder
I remember reading that William Faulkner was inspired to write one of his novels by the image of a little girl up in a tree. By now, the story of J.K. Rowling seeing Harry Potter in her mind’s eye while sitting on a train has surely become a literary legend. Where do such moments of inspiration spring from — and why do some of us seize them and others let them slip away?
This question hit me afresh when I came across an interview with Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games, a wildly popular YA novel with a dark survivalist cast. Two things interested me most in the interview: the mythic underpinnings of the story and the way in which it came about.
According to Suzanne, a significant influence on her story was the “Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The myth tells how in punishment for past deed, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete, where they were thrown in the Labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur.”
Grisly, but gripping! Suzanne also borrowed heavily from Roman gladitorial games for her novel. How did the idea for the story itself come about? Here’s what Suzanne says: “I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss’s story came to me. One night I’m sitting there flipping around and on one channel there’s a group of young people competing for, I don’t know, money maybe? And the on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.”
Fascinating, isn’t it, how myth and modern-day TV merged to create the heart of a story that’s captured the attention, not just of teens, but of adults as well? Sometimes, I find that when I’m tired, I’m more open and less resistant — and the result can be a creative flash that’s very exciting. That seems to be exactly what happened to Suzanne. How about you?