Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sources of Inspiration

Like most writers, I am never short on ideas. I do not sit at the computer, day after day, wondering what I want to write. Instead, like most writers I know, I have EIGHTEEN projects in the works (or mumbling to me at night), waiting for me to get my rear in gear, so to speak, and get back to working on them.

These projects have minds of their own, and perhaps I'll blog about these demented minds some day, but each one also comes from a particular source of information.

My first novel came from a dream, a recurring nightmare I had as a teenager. In fact, the dream came to me over the years, and has only ceased since I wrote the first draft of the novel. I dreamed I was a man (and I often dream I am male, for some reason), and a bunch of shadow men were chasing me through a cemetery. I found a white grave marker, a lying statue rather like those placed atop the wealthy dead in Europe for centuries, and the men surrounded me, stabbing me. Sometimes I was the statue, a girl, and I could sense the danger, feel the blood dripping on me, etc. Very frightening.

It became the climax to my first novel.

My second book was inspired by pictures a friend sent me of floods in SE Kansas, a place from which I had recently moved. The town just south of Independence had flooded completely, even leaking oil from its refinery, and the arial pictures she sent me sparked a question about a second flood of biblical proportions.

I told this story through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl, third child of Noah, an Oklahoma farmer.

My third novel came from a particular ghost I researched--Charley, a man who had died in a house fire--but I moved his location to Seattle, changed his age, and created a whole story around him.

My fourth novel idea? Well, it came from a student paper--and art analysis of a painting of a mermaid, shown here.
★★TOP handpaint  OIL  Painting★ A Mermaid ON CANVAS 36"

The research the student had done regarding mermaid history and major stories was fascinating, and I was inspired to create a novel using what I knew (or could find out) about mermaids, sylphs, and other mythical creatures. I hope to start this novel soon.

So, what is your own inspiration? What spark inspires your writing? I'd love to know


  1. Anything and everything. Sometimes it's an off-hand comment that's gets me playing "what if?" which is how I got the story "Backseat Driver". Sometimes it's a story or character interaction I see that I'd like to see in a different context or with a different character.

    Sometimes it's something I really like that inspires me and sometimes it's something that fell flat I want to do the way it ought to be done.

    Sometimes, it's someone I know that I want to immortalize. Sometimes it's playing with the expected or twisting a cliche (like my heroine rescuing her husband in the beginning of my sword and sorcery novel).

    Sometimes it's a scene that comes to me and I build a whole world and novel to show it off. It's always frustrating when, in the end, the scene has to be cut or changed to fit what I've built, but, hey, it happens.

  2. Inspiration just comes to me; from many things… it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing to draw from.
    I can read four books at a time, and keep them straight and the story stay fresh in my mind. I can’t say the same thing about writing. I have to work on one book until it is complete, if I try and do more than one at a time it get all jumbled together and I get lost and confused

  3. Dreams, sure. But mostly the non-fiction stuff I read gets twisted up with reality.

  4. Inspiration always comes from my own life. I have lived long enough now, at 56, to have a wealth of experiences and characters to pick from and take on a further adventure.

  5. I will answer honestly and truthfully Shakes---I simply don't know. I get a line from nowhere that floats through my head and once I put it down it all just comes running out like water through a spillway. I don't write about things or people I am familiar with and when I get involved in a 35K word work or longer I read read read the research for accuracy but the rest...*shrug* it is just "there"

  6. Stephanie--I hear you on the inspiration stemming from something that falls flat... and you write it to see how good it CAN turn out...

    Jeff--I think I'm the opposite. I don't like reading two books at the same time... but I also don't work on two big projects at once. I do tend to revise, revise, revise... and revise some more, though. I find that working on another project allows me to wipe the chalkboard of my mind clean, making the next revision of a project far better than it would be if I'd stuck with it and it alone.

    The Mother--non-fiction stuff is often a fabulous resource. I still hold onto an article about a woman who lived in a man's closet for over a year before he found her... I think it happened in Korea, and the story was compelling enough to hold onto for later, though I'm not sure what I'll eventually do with it.

    Barbara--I find that even when I was a kid I wrote from my own life. Our own experiences give us insight into the world, if only we examine them. None of my characters are specifically based on a single person, though--nearly all have facets of me and those around me.

    Walking Man--Poetry works that way for me, too. A single line or title floats in my head, then sifts itself onto the page. Poetry is my most subconscious form of writing, and since even your prose feels like poetry to me, I can see why the sources would be harder to pin down.