Inspiration for a novel can come from the strangest places (Spiritwalker)

Last Friday my sister told me that one of the reasons she liked the Spiritwalker books so much was that the banter reminded her of 30s screwball comedies.

I have to say that this was not a comparison that would have leaped to my mind, nor is it one that had ever occurred to me.

She went on to explain that what she loved about the banter in 30s screwball comedies (and their related cousins, 30s musicals of the kind in which we might see Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) is that the banter between the romantic couple highlights the the equality of the pair both in intelligence and strength of will. That sort of banter only works if it is going both ways, and if both characters engage in it in equal measure.

Before Spiritwalker, I would have told you that I could not write fiction that was funny. There may be occasional amusing bits in my other books (some more than others) but mostly my epic fantasy is Big Ticket Serious (and emotional and exciting, one hopes, but nevertheless serious). I can’t pun or write jokes. And I have never possessed the right form of cleverness to write witty fantasy-of-manners type repartee, in which the characters are exceedingly clever and droll.

But I watched a lot of 30s screwball comedy when I was in my 20s because it appealed to me so much, I think because of that sense of equality between the lead couple my sister discussed. Hepburn and Grant, Fred and Ginger: It works because the scripts treat them as equals.

I guess the lesson here is twofold.

One, you never know and cannot predict what readers are going to see in your books.

Two, you never know what is filtering down through the layers of the mind and how or when things will emerge or in what transmuted form.

Will we ever be able to fathom the mystery of how the mind turns experience into story?

8 thoughts on “Inspiration for a novel can come from the strangest places (Spiritwalker)

  1. Screwball comedies.

    Thinking about this for a moment, there is a belligerent sexual tension between Andevai and Cat.

    It Happened One Night…yeah, I could see that as an inspiration for their dynamic.

  2. Yes, yes, yes. The underlying thread of “I find you infuriating, let me tell you how,but also ridiculously attractive, which I will not willingly admit” is such a common theme in those movies. And there is no such thing as a dumb hero or heroine in them, as you cannot be dumb and make with the snappy patter.

    I’m gonna watch The Lady Eve and The Thin Man and ponder this.

  3. I laughed aloud when Cat said ” I am a seamstress of rare and potent power”. The banter between Bee and Cat is equally great though.

  4. Yes, that exactly. Neither is ever intimidated by the other one.

    I’ve discovered I almost always dislike love stories in which there is an obvious power differential. Also, ones in which the woman “tames” the man, which always seems like a weird form of pretending that his “domestication” eases the power differential.

    Sadly, I have never seen The Lady Eve. Must rectify.

    The banter between Fred and Ginger (who are my favorites of all time in this regard because they dance, too) is quite lively also. Ginger always gives as good as she gets. I really love her.

  5. So glad you laughed at that line!

    Yes, the Bee and Cat banter is fun to write (there’s more Bee, Cat, and Rory banter in book 3).

  6. A classic early 30s comedy is called Trouble in Paradise. It was filmed before the Hayes Act so is fairly racy for its time. Great dialogue.

  7. My favourit couple in this regard was Spike and Linda from the UK children’s seires Press Gang. The episodes that focused on their relationship where a none stop verbal duel in which neither of them could ever get the upper hand for long.

    But then again the rest of that banter in that show was also rather good.

  8. This is another example of a show I’ve not heard of, because sadly we get so few UK (or Australian, or any foreign) tv shows brought into the US market.

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