How Media Inspires Our Stories

Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Throughout the day we experience media overload, whether it’s TV, radio, newspaper, or websites. But how many times do these things help you draw within yourself to find story?

It may not seem apparent, but I began noticing the connections between news and memories. I guess it’s safe to say that anything can produce a memory or a story, but so can the local news if you think about it.

For instance, take Owen Wilson, and his recent suicide attempt. Right when I heard about that I felt really sad and mentioned it to my hubby. He replied, “Why are you feeling bad for him, the guy has everything.” Well, I suppose that is true, but if he really did slash his wrists and take a bunch of pills over Kate Hudson, or otherwise, it’s still sad. “Don’t you remember he hit on you?” My hubby added. I’d almost forgotten!

Two years ago we were at the premiere for the film, "Lords of Dogtown," where we got to walk down the red carpet—what a thrill! One of the skaters my hubby sponsored was paid to destroy the huge vert ramp outside the Chinese Man, so we had all-access passes. After the show ended and we were hanging out in front of the theater behind the velvet rope, my hubby nudged me and told me to check out Owen Wilson because he was staring at me. I looked over, and he was giving me that patented look he has—the one with the puckered lips and the squinty eyes.

Later on that evening we went to an after-party where Social Distortion and Perry Ferrel from Jane’s Addiction played. I happened to take a walk to the upstairs bar by myself and ran into Owen, who was alone, standing against a wall. I ended up having a brief conversation with him, got a drink, and quickly returned to my hubby. I could’ve gotten into trouble right there! But I played it cool.

The news story on Owen Wilson didn’t only remind me of that encounter, it reminded me of the people I knew who have attempted suicide, or actually committed it. It also brought to memory some tragic breakups and the feeling of heartache. And it reminded me of how my high school English teacher made us watch the early 1968 version of "Romeo and Juliet," which contained nudity, as well as the 1977 movie "Equus," which of course contained intimate situations with a horse. I was in Honors English, btw, and this was in the eighties. A different time, a different era... although that didn’t make it any less embarrassing.

Rounding it out: it doesn’t matter whether it’s a story about a celebrity or something that you heard on NPR, there’s always going to be a reminder of something personal... something that affected your life at one point and time. Just realizing it and taking notice, perhaps jotting it down, will help you mine your resources and create story, as Annette Fix mentioned in this month’s article Drawing From Your Life to Create Story.

Have you ever heard a story in the media that reminded you of something from your life? We'd love to hear your stories, no matter how big or small.


Chynna said...

OOOOOOO excellent post, Ang! =oD

Actually, I wrote a story about "Fanny Smackin'" after I watched an episode of CSI (cuz we know alot of their stuff stems from media stories). I"m often inspired to write stuff from the media because it's "real life" and I believe there are things that SHOULD be talked about (even if they are taboo). =o)

Here's the link to my story, if no one minds:

Thanks for this post, Angela (and Annette ;o) ). VERY good topic.


Angela Mackintosh said...


I just read your article on AC... and I have to say "Wow!"

In your article, "CSI Show Teaches the Concept of 'Crowd Thinking'," you've gone far and beyond just simply sighting an incident that relates to the 'crowd mentality', you’ve tackled the primal instincts of people when it comes to the phenomenon called "wilding". This is what it’s been coined out here in SoCal -- a term used for riots or violence amongst women and minorities. It’s that pack mentality as you described. Bravo.

And yes, this proves my point, but on a more substantial level I might add (LOL); whereas my story was just geared toward the superficial, yours accentuated many important points that relate to society and the greater meaning of life.

Thank you for your comments!

I thoroughly enjoyed your article, and voted on it. ;)


Sue said...

Angela, what a thought-provoking post. It's exactly why I don't watch much on TV, either news or other media entertainment. They always highlight and pump up the ugliest realities. But you've brought it into a new light. Yes, you're right, "anything can produce a memory." You've reminded me of a mother in Houston, a desperate person, a friend I had to talk out of suicide. I guess the media does inspire something positive after all. I hadn't thought about it in this light.
Thanks for your stellar insight!

Angela Mackintosh said...


Thank you for your insight :-)

I know what you mean... there are many realities (and UN-realities) voiced in the media, but we all have to take them with a grain of salt. Think about it... remember "Wag the Dog"? The media can spin a cruel story... and it's all because they're writers, just like us!

And like us, they need a hook, a draw, a dynamic solution to fill the never-ending airwaves. Something to inspire both fear and fascination.

If you take these stories as not-all-the-way-truths (which is probably the case), then you can examine how plots from everyday life is made -- apply to your own life. Bake, sift, and save.

It's all a matter of reality...

And sometimes reality can be objective.

Chynna said...

WOW! I just love this post. =oD

IT's funny because I was just watching "The Insider" (because Xander FINALLY went to sleep in my arms and I couldn't reach the remote LOL) and they TOTALLY milk the bad stuff in a story or leave a big question mark so people will tune in. It's all about ratings or selling a ragmag and that shouldn't be what it's all about, should it?

There are many stories, books and movies born from real life experience with a get people to "tune in" or read.

Like I said, I'm often inspired to write about "real life" things but not to promote or sell but more to get people to think and discuss. There are alot of things that NEED discussion but they are considered "taboo" or people are afraid to acknowledge them.

I forget about my size sometimes when I'm standing on my soapbox. LOL It wouldn't take much to shove me off.

This is an excellent post, Angela because it gets us talking and, hopefully, inspires an article or two. ;o)


PS: guys ROCK! you didn't have to vote on the article, I just put it up as an example. But thank you. =o) xo

Angela Mackintosh said...

LOL. I'm in a silly mood.

If I push you off your ancient 'soap box' Chynna, will you slip and slide?

I guess soap boxes used to be these big huge platforms... hmmm, but what would be the equivalent today?

Gee, I can't think of anything... everything seems to get smaller... like cell phones, computers, appliances and cars... ?

I wonder if there's something that keeps getting bigger instead of smaller?

Okay, I'm feeling a little like Alice, lol.

Chynna said...


Actually, I don't usually use a 'soapbox'. My feet are too big and I'd trip off. ;o)

I wonder the same thing about, Angela (if there are things that keep getting bigger instead of smaller). That would be kewl.

Okay...I'm getting tired. LOL


Chynna said...

(Oopsys...I didn't mean "I wonder about ANGELA...I mean I wonder the same thing too, ANGELA. That didn't sound good the first way, did it? LOL


Anonymous said...

Angela, I don’t remember Alice in Wonderland very well; did she like Pinot Grigio? ;) I like your point about the wilding. I remember that incident in Central Park years ago where several boys attacked a female jogger. I saw that CSI episode Chyna mentioned. My son and I watched it. We discussed how the "fanny packing" and violent personal crimes like that are becoming more and more common as kids become desensitized by violence in entertainment--video games, movies, etc. But I don't blame it all on the media, that's just one piece of the "why" puzzle. I think a lot of parents are dropping the ball. Somehow, the preciousness of life is never taught to these kids. It's sad. And I'm not even going to get started about my thoughts regarding the "crowd mentality" of what happened during the Holocaust. As a society, I just don't understand how we let it get to this point...

Anonymous said...

I think in some cases we try to tune out media events that bring out the "wilding" or ugliness that is overtaking our country. I suffered through the five hurricanes we had here in Southwest Florida in eight weeks and it brought out the worst in people.

As Writers, I think we have a responsibility to inspire, motivate, question, and move our readers to think about the choices we make and how they affect those around us.

I was moved by Owen Wilson's recent suicide attempt. It stuck with me to the point I had to write a letter to him just to get it out-of-my-system. My father asked me to help him to commit suicide when he was diagnosed with Parkinson Disease. For some reason Owen brought back all that pain.
He'll never see that letter, and it'll never be published, but perhaps the message will find his way to him, "We do not choose between life and death. We are only given the gift of choosing how nobly and with what passion we will live." My father didn't speak to me for years, but in the end he thanked me for my words and was grateful for the eighteen years he had to walk in the woods and live a better life.

What a wonderful post!
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Chynna said...

Julia, THANK YOU so much for your post. Beautiful. And your quote is dead on.

My mother suffered from misdiagnosed and untreated mental illness and frequently asked us to help her end her suffering. I'm going to incorporate your quote in my memoirs. ='o)


Angela Mackintosh said...


I totally understand how you feel. Every time I hear about anything having to do with suicide, I think of my mother. She committed suicide when I was twelve. I often wish that I could've known what she was going to do, or that she'd reached out for help.

You gave your father the gift of life through your love and words.

Thank you for sharing your story - it means a great deal to me.



Anonymous said...

Chynna and Angela,

Thank you for your kindness.

Suicide is such a bitter evil.

If I had but one thought to leave with the world to change the future it would be to remember that people "break". We can't all stand the pain, or the loneliness (real or imagined), and that we all suffer the same humanity.

We need to hold each other's hands. We need to embrace each other's religions and politics with respect and understanding. We need to challenge each other to cherish that which makes us unique and "different".

"We must all be the light that none of us dare the darkness alone." julia (you can quote me on that one!)

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Chynna said...

No, Julia...thank YOU for being brave enough to share your wisdom with us. I hope many people read your post and take your words into their hearts.

THANK you.

Chynna (((HUGS)))

PS: And I'll use that last quote in my memoirs for SURE! ;o)

Anonymous said...

If you need a mom... email me. I'm available for hugs, tirades, and a shoulder to cry on.


Thank you.

My letter to Owen Wilson - or anyone who has been too long in the darkness...


It's all over the news. Your private pain now part of the public domain. A damn media event.

Perfect strangers diagnosing and straining your life through one of those cheap plastic sieves you buy at the Dollar Store.

I don't know you. And I don't pretend that reading some vague article in some slick magazine gives me some instant personal connection to you. You are a stranger.

But, I wish my father were here to talk to you now. It seems like he's been gone forever. He was a quiet, purposeful man. You would've liked him.

He wouldn't have known that you were in-the-movies, or cared. You would've had to earn his respect, known how to plant a tree, or pick the sweetest strawberries. I think you would've made him laugh.

When he was diagnosed with Parkinson Disease, he came to me with drained eyes the color of used motor oil and begged me to help him commit suicide. You should know my father understood death. He stood beside me when I was five at my brother's graveside and held my hand. He explained, “There is no death, only change.” He seemed to think that life had to be perfect to live it. It doesn't. My voice sounded small and helpless as I said, "No."

He didn't speak to me for years.

The medications saved him for eighteen years. He came to me the year before he died and thanked me for giving him the best years of his life. Even though he was disabled, he was free to enjoy the deer he fed winter apples. He walked for hours in the woods he loved. He read books and picked the sweetest strawberries.

If I were with you now to hold your hand and catch your tears in my pocket, I would tell you what I told him then, "We do not choose between life and death. We are only given the gift of choosing how nobly and with what passion we will live."

Choose well dear friend and let me hold your hand when the path becomes too dark.


Maybe someone will send this to someone, who will send it to someone, who will send it to someone...
and for a moment--the world will not be so dark.

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Angela Mackintosh said...

Aw... Julia, thank you for your motherly love. :-)

And your letter is so beautiful, well written, poetic, and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing. I'm going to send it to someone I know who could use your heartfelt words.



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