Paul Owen Lewis
Author and Illustrator

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Inspirational Quotes by other Authors

I'm always trying to better understand the craft of story creation. Luckily I’ve found some very helpful insights from well known authors over the years. Here are just a few, and what they have helped me to understand and strive for in my writing.

Where do story ideas begin and develop from? For me the process is much more like bird watching than either talking or building. I see pictures …keep quiet and watch and they begin building themselves up. I have no idea whether this is the usual way of writing stories, still whether it is the best. It is the only way I know;
Images Always Come First.

~C. S. Lewis

Lewis, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia series, was one of my favorite authors growing up. To find out his books came from seeing pictures linking up in his mind’s eye, scene by scene, to become stories (like I did when creating Davy’s Dream) gave me confidence in my drawing first method. Odd as it may sound, “images always come first” helped me realize that thinking is visual before it is verbal. For instance, when I say the word apple, which comes to mind, a red or green fruit, or the letters a-p-p-l-e? The fruit of course. Because an apple is a real thing, something you can hold in your hand, bite into, enjoy the flavor of. The letters a-p-p-l-e are just symbols that stand for the real thing. So now when I sit down to write a story I don’t try to think of words first, instead I focus on visualizing the action, seeing what is happening in what will be my story, then the words necessary to describe it come much easier.

There are thirty-two ways to write a story, and I’ve used every one, but there is only one plot – things are not as they seem.

~Jim Thompson

Only one plot? Really? I’ve thought about this one for a long time. Sure enough, every story I examine, whether it’s a book or movie, features that “ah-ha moment” when an important truth about a character or situation is revealed. Why? Perhaps to lend realism by mirroring what is true in our own lives. Seems hardly a day goes by without the “things are not as they seem” experience, with our families, at school, our jobs, world politics, even our very selves. There is real satisfaction in learning that previously hidden truth, too. Imagine a story where everyone and everything was exactly as it seemed all the way to the end. It would be pretty dull. So, when I’m composing a story, I always try to play against the reader’s expectations somewhat. Otherwise, if there are no surprises waiting at the end, why continue reading?

Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and
thinking something different.

~Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

King Solomon, said to be the wisest man who ever lived, once proclaimed, “there is nothing new under the sun”. Maybe so, but according to this Nobel Prize-winning scientist, you don’t need anything “new” to make a terrific discovery, just a new way of looking at the same thing everyone else is. As a writer looking for new story ideas, this has been a gold mine for me. The initial spark for all my story ideas started with very common things, ie., a sailboat, a polar bear, a beach rock, etc. They became new and interesting when I “thought about them differently” as in, what about a sailboat painted like an upside down killer whale? (Davy’s Dream) A polar bear with a black tie and top hat? (P. Bear’s New Years Party) A beach rock that travels across the galaxy? (The Jupiter Stone)

You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.

~Annie Dillard

While visiting students at schools across the country I am often asked why I write stories, what motivates me. Good question. I wondered that, too, before I attempted it because writing and illustrating a book is a tremendous amount of work. Is it the money? Ha, if only! The fame? Pass. No, what really motivates a person is passion, sheer astonishment for some thing, that you alone love or admire. There is really no feeling in the world like communicating successfully, and hopefully artfully, the object, subject, phenomenom, truth revealed, lesson learned, etc., that astonishes you. So now when I sit down to write, I ask, “what astonishes me”? The answer has never failed to inspire and motivate me.

'Girl and Frog', NW Indian headdress frontlet