I live in an area that while not exactly founded by the Dutch, it is heavily influenced by the conservative Dutch Christian Reformed Church separatists seeking religious tolerance or freedom anyway. There is a church about every block - mostly Protestant with a good number of Catholic thrown in for good measure and with an increasing number of other religions and their places of worship popping up. Given this heritage, religion is a hot button topic here, in any class and situation. Why does this matter? Because I'm taking a mythology class - which has done wonders for my muse's attitude and my imagination - and this week we got to watch The DaVinci Code. Excellent movie. We were supposed to have a discussion about it afterward, however, the entire class practiced restraint and said very little except to answer the prof's questions. The reason - no one really wanted to start that war. Though it was tempting. The question was asked - amid a bunch of other babble, why Dan Brown wrote that book. The rest of the questions were answered, that was not. But I have a guess.
To answer a question.
But what question? The question - well game - most writers - at least the ones I know ask themselves and makes our significant others and non-writing friends and family run in fear or turn around offer inane suggestions that might really work.
What if -- ?
What if the sky were red instead of blue? What if Earth had two moons? What if that box in that you saw in that store that sells trinkets, statues of faeries and dragons, and incense wasn't bought from a store, but was bought at a garage or estate sale in the bottom of a box of junk for a 1.00 and it contained the first evidence that the modern civilization is actually part of some sort of human ant farm, and we're actually in a class room or museum. Or it was unearthed during construction by a bulldozer along with a set of human bones. In the middle of an Ancient American Indian Burial Ground.
What if --?
My friend Caley played that game after reading an article and got a book about elves and world destruction and a diary that ended up in someone's hands. I played it and ended up with a bar. I played it again and got a new world creation myth that has/is/was lost to the fabric of time and a new series idea.
Writers, I think, are by nature a curious lot. We see things that aren't there, we rework a myth and cross it with a legend, secret societies, and a man who thought outside the box and just might have thought he was smarter than ruling people and you get a book that makes people think and creates dialogue among the arguing. For a book I wrote, I created a mythology and a history to go with it. Why? Because it added depth to the story. Because all cultures have myths, legends, and stories.
Why do we incorporate things, people, and places we know, see, hear, feel, and think about into our work? The answer on the exam that the lit teacher asks is something like - to make a point that maybe which only the author knows or because it offers the readers a means to ground themselves and a point of reference. The true answer is because everything and everyone we come in contact with is book fodder - meaning its stored for later use.
So the reason why Dan Brown wrote the books he did? FOr his answer - ask him - he may say I'm full of crap - eh...
It answers a question.
More than that - its what writers do - they tell stories. Occasionally they make you think. Occasionally they elicit a strong emotional reaction. But writers write, because 9 times out of 10, they have no choice.