Robbing the Headlines: Repurposing True Events in Fiction

Early in the semester, my Appalachian literature students had the opportunity to have a Skype conversation with author Silas House. They had just finished reading his novel A Parchment of Leaves, and I hoped they would ask him meaningful and intelligent questions about the novel, questions that would lead to a deeper understanding of themes and characters or good writing in general. Unsurprisingly, one of the first questions that came from the group was, where do you get your ideas? Many writers and instructors squirm at this question. It doesn’t necessarily indicate to the author that you have read and thought about their material, nor does it engage the particular craft decisions writers spend painstaking hours making. It could be considered a generic, blanket question. In the essay, “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?” Alice Mattison says readers ask this question of writers as if authors might respond, “I order them online” or “In the supermarket, near the pancake mix.”1 Admittedly, it is a common question, but it is also an important and valid question, particularly for the writer of fiction. Mattison agrees that the curiosity of readers is understandable.

Subscribe to read the full text.

Amanda Jo Runyon is a mother, writer, and instructor in Pike County, Kentucky. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in journals such as The Louisville Review, Still: The Journal, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, and Kudzu, as well as Seeking Its Own Level, volume 4 of the Motif anthology series. She is co-editor of the literary journal The Pikeville Review.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *