Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Source of Ideas by Mark Troy

This Friday is February 17. Mark it on your calendars. It is the day the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue comes out. It is already available for download on your iPad. It has already been downloaded on mine.

I'll be spending a lot of time going through it, as will many readers, not to ogle the bikinis (okay, I'll admit to a fair share of ogling) but to find story ideas.

My first mystery story that was accepted for publication, Wahine O Ka Hoe, was inspired by an article in an SI swimsuit issue. The article was about the women's Molokai to Oahu canoe race which takes place every year. It's an open ocean race across what is possibly the most dangerous channel in the world. (Mystery author Twist Phelan paddled in that race one year.)

What caught my attention in the article was a paragraph describing the dangers of the race. These fourteen hundred pound canoes are like sticks on that turbulent ocean. They surf down the face of ocean waves like runaway ore trains. There are six paddlers in a canoe and four relief paddlers in the escort boat. The most dangerous part of the race occurs when they change paddlers. The escort drops a paddler in the water and the canoe comes alongside. One paddler goes over the side and the other swings into the canoe. Because this is a race, the canoes don't come to a full stop. Moreover, they don't want the relief paddler to have to swim to the canoe so they try to come within arm's reach of the paddler in the water. Now imagine that the steersman misjudged the distance or that a sudden ocean swell came up behind the canoe. If hit by the canoe, that paddler in the water could be seriously injured or killed. That's what I imagined and wrote my story about it.

In another issue, I came across an article about the Purdue women's basketball team beating the women of Tennessee on their home court. The article was called Home Wreckers. I turned that into a short story of the same name.

In still another issue, though not the swimsuit issue, was a story about some highly prized but unsung athletes, the bulls of the professional bull-riding circuit. That article became my short story, Horns.

In recent years, to my chagrin, (I'm typing this with a straight face.) Sports Illustrated has dropped a lot of the articles in order to devote more pages to bikinis and body paint. But that doesn't mean there is no longer story inspiration to be found. The idea for my latest story, Ripper, practically leapt off the pages of one SI swimsuit pictorial, as did a work in progress of which I won't say anymore at this point.

Four published stories and one in progress is a pretty good showing. Sports Illustrated, for this writer anyway, is a great idea generator. That's why I'm excited about this Friday.

The four published stories appear in Game Face, which you can get free this month in ebook format. Click here to get an iPad, Nook, and Kobo version. Or click here to get a Kindle version. The download will begin as soon as you click on it. If you want a paperback copy and are in central Texas, visit me at the Madison County Writers Guild Book Sale and Signing on Saturday, Feb. 18 and Sunday, Feb 19. On Sunday, I will be giving a short story workshop.

So what inspires you?

Mark Troy
Hawaiian Eye Blog


Morgan Mandel said...

Once again, Mark, you prove that we authors have devious minds. We don't look at things the same way others do.

Morgan Mandel

Caroline Clemmons said...

Mark, loved your article and downloading your collection. That's a terrific cover for GAME FACE. You are an exceptional writer. Best wishes for mega success.

Earl Staggs said...

Inspiration from SI? Really, Mark? I worry about you.

Just kidding. You made your points well. I've obviously been reading the wrong magazines.