Personal Stories Behind Creative Works?
April 26, 2014 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for origin stories of creative works rooted in personal experiences. The more grar, the better. The more "I was so mad..." or "I met this person and was attracted and Oh God No!", the better. So, leaning heavily towards "I had Big Feelings about a personal experience and I put it into a song/movie scene/short story/whatever."

Some examples off the top of my head (so: IIRC):

Le Freak: The band had played at a club. They got a luke warm reception. They left the club and went to the studio and were yelling at the top of their lungs "F*** OFF!!" It was actually catchy, so they used it as seed for a song, changing "F*** off" to "Freak out."

Angels Would Fall is about a crush Melissa Ethridge had on someone who was off limits.

A lot of the early songs of the group "No Doubt" were about the break up between Gwen Stefani and her bandmate boyfriend.

I have heard that the movie "I Confess" by Hitchcock was in part inspired by a childhood experience where Hitchcock was taken to jail and locked up briefly, wrongfully accused of something. (I cannot find confirmation of this, though.)

I saw an interview with an author where he said that a scene in one of his books (later turned into a movie) was based on real life events: His father had psychiatric issues, pulled a knife on him and attacked him. He wrestled the knife out of his dad's hands and was thus holding it when the police showed up. So he ended up being arrested when he had been the one assaulted.

The song She Works Hard for the Money was inspired by a real life encounter that Donna Summer had with an exhausted bathroom attendant.

(Video and audio are kind of an issue for me, so I would appreciate if any links are to text and picture based sources.)

posted by Michele in California to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Best of Connie Willis is a collection of her Hugo/Nebula award winning short stories/novellas. Each one is followed by her telling about what inspired each story (for example, a misplaced bunch of letters at the post office led to a post-nuclear war short story. It makes sense in context, I promise.), as well as print versions of three of her award acceptance speeches where she talks at length about how she was encouraged to become a writer. So if you're into sci-fi at all, it's a nice collection.
posted by damayanti at 12:18 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you heard of Taylor Swift?
posted by Flamingo at 12:51 PM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have a song that's a MeFi post mixed with personal experience. I was into the friend of a friend. I asked the original friend to sort of find out if this woman was interested because she was visiting my city and had expressed interest in hanging out.

My friend blew it. She called me up and said "my message was sent" and I asked how. She told her 70-year old mom who saw the mom of the woman I was interested in and told her I was available and her daughter ought to look me up!

I was mortified. At the same time there was a MeFi thread about human-animal communication and how we talk with animals like dogs and octupuses. "They're talking to octupuses, they're singing to dogs . . .the bees are getting organized, they gotta make a few calls."

The song contrasted how humans can talk to all these animals, but I couldn't communicate with this woman.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:57 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Halloween Parade by Lou Reed is his response to the AIDS crisis.

and Songs Drella is an entire album about Andy Warhol.
posted by brookeb at 1:24 PM on April 26, 2014

Best answer: John Scalzi's blog has a category called The Big Idea where other writers describe where their idea for a particular work came from. Most of them aren't very angsty, but you might find some of what you're looking for.
posted by Bruce H. at 2:25 PM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

i've got one from personal experience. i'm a writer worth $50,000/word in very short bursts (two of the three words are "dot" and "com"). i was standing on a redwood bench in the backyard of a home in the california wine country one sunny morning, holding a beer in my left hand and grooming a big, gorgeous loquat tree with the other. homeowner/bizbuddy yells out the window "bruce, what's a good name for a jobs board?" and i hollered back my answer, and several months later, we sold the url to a belgian guy for 150 grand. he subsequently sold it to some russians, and i have no idea who owns it now.

the grar was with our lawyer, whom i designated to escrow the transaction, and she unfortunately bonded with the buyer's lawyer. we were pressured to disclose the date of first doing business, for due diligence, and our response was "just use the date we registered the url" because, as any average fifth-grader reviewing these facts could tell you, we hadn't started operating it yet and were just squatting on the sucker. there was a final, unpleasant confrontation where she tried to "fine" me, out of my share of the proceeds, payable to her, for being a giant asshole (demurs to this allegation), and i involved the state bar, and guess who won?
posted by bruce at 4:08 PM on April 26, 2014

Best answer: Astray by Emma Donoghue is a collection of short stories based on old newspaper/magazine clippings. Some of the articles were longer, others were brief but very evocative. They're not personal stories (well, not for the author), but it was totally interesting in what direction she took the bare bones of the story. The story comes first, then the news item.
posted by clerestory at 5:34 PM on April 26, 2014

I just read Ross King's Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling and a while previously Brunelleschi's Dome, which are brilliant. They're not fictionalized first person, but they're hugely readable and (I believe) well-researched. They're not what you're looking for, but great.

"If you're going to force me to paint a fresco when I'd rather sculpt naked men, then I'm going to paint naked men all over your bloody ceiling, dammit!"
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:02 PM on April 26, 2014

The seed that grew into the movie "Jacob's Ladder" was a dream that Bruce Joel Rubin had while living in DeKalb, Illinois.
posted by 1367 at 7:11 PM on April 26, 2014

Best answer: Warning: TV Tropes links -

songs with personal stories behind them.

art with a reality subtext.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:26 PM on April 26, 2014

What the hell is grar?
posted by uans at 8:09 AM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dixie Chicks, Not Ready to Make Nice, written as a direct reaction to the controversy started after singer Natalie Maines publicly criticized George W. Bush during a concert in London.
posted by The Gooch at 8:30 AM on April 27, 2014

Best answer: From wikipedia:

Eminem - "Kim"
"Kim" was the first song the rapper recorded for the album, shortly after finishing work on The Slim Shady LP in late 1998.[26] Eminem wrote "Kim" at a time in which he and his wife were separated, and he had just watched a romantic movie alone at a theater.[26] Originally intending to write a love song for her while using ecstasy, the rapper hoped to avoid overt sentimentality and thus began writing a song of hate.[27] With the track, the rapper aimed to create a short horror story in the form of a song. Once the couple reconciled, Eminem recalls, "I asked her to tell me what she thought of it. I remember my dumb ass saying, 'I know this is a fucked-up song, but it shows how much I care about you. To even think about you this much. To even put you on a song like this'. "[28]

Chuck Palahniuk - "Fight Club"
Palahniuk once had an altercation while camping,[5] and though he returned to work bruised and swollen, his co-workers avoided asking him what had happened on the camping trip. Their reluctance to know what happened in his private life inspired him to write Fight Club.

Palahniuk first tried to publish another novel, Invisible Monsters, but publishers rejected it as too disturbing. Therefore, Palahniuk instead concentrated on Fight Club, intending it to be more disturbing. Initially Fight Club was published as a seven-page short story in the compilation Pursuit of Happiness (1995),[6] but Palahniuk expanded it to novel length (in which the original short story became chapter six); Fight Club: A Novel was published in 1996.[7][8]

posted by sidi hamet at 9:00 AM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What the hell is grar?

It is a word I think I learned from Jessamyn, so I assumed most folks here would know it. Fighty, emotional, strong negative feelings -- or something along those lines. Perhaps Jessamyn, who (has said she) is a librarian and is our librarian, will be so kind as to step in and provide an official definition from The Book of Jessamyn. Or The Official MeFi Dictionary. Or whatever the heck the source is. (If you search MeFi for grar, there are plenty of instances of it. So, I didn't simply make it up, even though googling the internet returns things like Grand Rapids Association of Realtors. Um, yeah. I can see why you might be confused.)

It isn't a requirement that the stories have strong negative emotion or even strong emotion of any sort. That's more like "Bonus points!" I am really just looking for the personal stories and sources of real life inspiration for creative works. I do some creative work and I am trying to up my game. I have a long history of Big Feelings. I also have a long history of doing therapy and what not to deal with them. I would like to start channeling more of that into my work and use it as grist for the mill instead of seeing it as A Problem. I would like to start treating it as a personal resource instead of a personal issue. And I think using it for creative inspiration is a good path forward in that regard.

I very much appreciate the responses already given and have been reading through some of the material, in between working and what not. Thanks!
posted by Michele in California at 1:32 PM on April 27, 2014

The extras track of Adele's 21 talks about how she was inspired to write the album courtesy of a break up, and various aspects of it.
posted by jojobobo at 1:51 AM on April 28, 2014

Response by poster: This has been wonderfully helpful for me. I think it is one of the best questions I have ever asked in terms of amount of personal benefit I have gotten out of it. I am marking it "resolved" but, you know, it remains open for a year and I would happy to hear more feedback, of course.
posted by Michele in California at 9:21 AM on May 27, 2014

« Older Fancy wool-blend formalwear: dry-clean after every...   |   1-2 season run TV series with satisfying... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.