T.S. Eliot once wrote “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” While it is true that many great ideas are reinterpreted and reimagined in ways that can make them fresh and new, the temptation to lift already-established fiction and place it piecemeal (or entirely) into your own for the purposes of gaming can be a problem. After all, it’s one thing for people around the table to recognize the influence of your character or plot, but it’s another entirely for them to realize you cut-and-pasted popular culture into the game (the number of times I’ve brazenly and shamelessly done this is another post entirely). But what if your story didn’t reach from fiction but the actual strangeness that is real life? That’s where I’d recommend you listen to the (truly bizarre) stories of real people in the wierdest place all: Hollywood.
“You Must Remember This” is “a storytelling podcast about the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century” and it offers a window into the true lives of some of Tinseltown’s most (and least) notable folks from the early 20th Century. Need to flesh out the background of your wealthy eccentric? Then listen to the madcap life of Howard Hughes. Want to play a talented artist given a raw deal by the world? Tune in to the difficult life of Judy Garland. Want to find inspiration from someone a little more modern? The behind-the-scenes story of Madonna’s “Material Girl” beginnings and her tumultuous romances is a must-listen. Of course, the number of people who you’ve probably never heard of but led fascinating lives nonetheless is incredible, and the biographies that are mostly lost to obscurity may inspire you the most.
Any story from the era where the American film industry went from a small-time operation on the east coast to the monolithic emblem of entertainment it is now, surviving the transition from silent to “talkies” to color and countless changes in the political atmosphere, will give you ample ideas for the stories in your mind. The host, Karina Longworth, is a person after my own heart. She writes, records, narrates and edits the program herself (like us here at Fandible, so she’s in good podcasting company) and is clearly passionate about the subject matter and occasionally gets others to do some voices for her. Also: Old-Timey “Mid-Atlantic” accents abound. It’s pretty amazing.
So next time your fantastical machinations seem to need some sprucing-up, resist the urge to turn on Netflix or open the pages of your favorite Conan-Meets-The-Scott-Brothers romantic fanfic and instead give “You Must Remember This” a listen. You’ll tell a story that will keep your players guessing and that has the strangest flavor of all narratives: Truth.
So what about you? Is there a lesser known figure in history that you love and think others would find creative inspiration in? Let us know in the comments below!
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