Short Story Author on Finding Writing Inspiration
Francis H. Powell’s Flight of Destiny is collection of 22 short stories about misfortune characterized by unexpected final twists at the end of each tale.
As I am short story writer, I am constantly looking out for ideas for new stories. My stories are dark and surreal, so I depend on a supply of dark thoughts flowing through my mind, as well as other sources drawn from real events. What are some of my obsessions, where do my ideas come from?
I don’t know where it comes from, but I seem to have a bit of an obsession with the death penalty, did something happen to me in a previous life?. I can’t imagine the feeling a person might have when they know their time on this earth is limited. At some point, the door of their cell is going to open and they are going to be led on their final walk, to this unknown future…nobody really knows what awaits us, following our final breath, of course some surmise some kind of heaven or hell. One of my short stories is called “Duke”. It is a story about a man who has been condemned to death for some unspecified reason, but who seems to be treating his inevitable execution with a great flippancy, as if he is on a pleasurable short sojourn. Duke is a fraud and not really a Duke, he just puts on the airs and graces of a Duke and enjoys the privileges a Duke might enjoy, be it in a squalid prison.
I came up with the idea for Duke, having seen a newspaper article, that talked about a man who assumed the identity of an aristocrat, but like my Duke, was nothing more than a fraud. Newspapers are a great source of inspiration for me as a writer. Obscure stories, eye catching headlines, tragedy filled lives, fakes, frauds, abominable characters, they are all there.
Television also supplies inspiration. I watched a documentary about the number of fathers who are not bringing up children from their seed, but from another man. The facts are there for all… An academic study from Liverpool John Moores University in the UK has come up with an eye opening discovery which is that 1 in 25 fathers are unknowingly raising another man’s child. The research headed by an eminent professor, looked at data from the UK, the USA and other countries across the globe. In the US, the number of paternity tests have increased from 142,000 in 1991 to 310,490 in 2001. In the UK the estimated number of paternity tests are between 8,900 and 20,000 tests per year. Imagine what a barracks full of young soldiers is like, the temptations and the suspicions flying about, it could be enough to drive any father to the point of insanity, not knowing if he is the real father…This was the basis for my story “Seed”. A woman, whose biological clock is ticking away, is married to Captain Spender, a fine a fine military man, but absent husband. Surrounded by virile men, she considers her best chance of getting pregnant, is to have a brief liaison with one of the officers. Everything comes to a head at the regimental baptism.
Some ideas come from nowhere. I was travelling on the Paris metro, when suddenly a name came to me…Little Mite…I then thought about, who would possess such a name…concluding it seemed like a young adolescent, rather wicked. The story is about two families one old aristocracy on the wane, the other nouveau riche Little Mite’s sister is about to be married, a match made in heaven and beneficial to both families. There is a party on a lawn, all the final details are being made for the wedding. Little Mite lures the groom’s younger brother to her father’s workshop and glues the innocent boy to a coffee table, a work in progress. Not content with this, she goes and picks some stinging nettles and thrashes the boys
legs. This idea came from a newspaper about the author and writer Vita Sackville West, who had a similar fate awaiting children who visited the Sackville estate when she was a child. The story gets very dark, at the end when Little Mite decides to play a trick on her family, to try to get back in her parent’s good books. Unfortunately her father mistakes her for a burglar and shoots her with a hunting rifle. This idea was the result of a newspaper article about a similar mishap.
There are many odious characters in my book Flight of Destiny…as well as freaks and oddballs…the outsiders of this world. Often their names reflect either physical appearance (for example “Bugeyes” born into an aristocratic family that rejects him due to his over-sized eyes) or their personality (for example Maggot…a circus owner who tries to sell his daughter to pay off his circus’ debt.
Sometimes I like to combine ideas for example Art and Science … Mutant is a story which is about a scientist, who has an unlikely passion for conceptual art. Science has crazy, grafting an ear onto a mouse, so I thought about a man, who for reasons of revenge, grafts a fish tail onto his wife, following a pre-planned car crash. I was inspired by the Art work of Damien Hurst, and thought what if somebody went much further for his own pleasure and for the cause of art.
My story Bodyparts, is influenced by a film called “The Stepford Wives”. It is set in the future, rich men can have assembled perfect wives. In the future perhaps flight attendants will be types of humanoids, so I thought why not a “wife” for a rich industrialist. The problem arises in this story when the humanoid, begins to develop feminist tendencies and her own independent thought. I am making fun of control freak husbands and men who seek woman as trophies.
Flight of Destiny is full of strange story lines, but then if you glance carefully at newspapers, you will find that life is full of strange occurrences.
Francis H. Powell was born in Reading, England and educated at art schools. He has lived in Austria, where he taught English, and currently lives in Paris, where he pursues songwriting, performing in concerts, and writing both prose and poetry. Powell has published short stories in the magazine, “Rat Mort” and other works on the internet site “Multi-dimensions and “Freakwave”.