When people find out I’m a writer, one of the first questions that inevitably comes up is where I get all of the ideas for my stories.
Well, the truth is, I get inspiration from pretty much anywhere and everywhere–a news story, the lyrics of a song, a dream, a photograph, a snippet of dialogue between two people in front of me in line at the coffee shop, and–every now and then–from nowhere at all. I honestly don’t remember what was behind every single thing I’ve ever written, but there are a few AH-HA! moments that stand out in my memory for whatever reason, so I thought I’d share those with all of you.
1) My very first manuscript, way back when I was 14-years-old, was inspired by a series of dreams I had. And, as I recall, I was reading a lot of fantasy novels around then, which probably played a large part in what was on my mind. In particular, I remember two novels/series that were absolutely fabulous and had me hooked on the genre – The Oval Amulet by Lucy Cullyford Babbit and The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce. I’m generally not all that into YA novels, but I would definitely read these again.
2) A short story I wrote in high school called “The Weed,” which won something-or-other in my creative writing class, came about because of a particularly awful dandelion infestation in our yard that was choking out all the little violet wildflowers I liked to pick and put in a tiny vase on my desk. I remember sitting at my desk looking out the window (instead of doing homework) and fuming about the dandelions, and the idea for the story hit me. When all was said and done, I ended up writing a very dark short story about a precocious little boy battling to save his mother from nefarious forces. The weed was a metaphor. I came across the story again recently and was more than a little shocked by how much the main character I created twenty years ago resembles my eldest son. Adding to the weirdness–they share the same first name. (For the record, that’s where the similarities end. )
3) A contemporary romance I’ve been working on in fits and starts for several years now was inspired by a single line from a song that I really loved in college. I’ve written loads of scenes for this story, but it keeps wanting to morph into a romantic suspense. I’ve set it aside to return to at some later date when I figure out which way I want it to go.
4) A project called The Vessel (which is in the final round of revisions) came about after I watched a documentary on the Black Death. Incidentally, the story has absolutely nothing to do with the plague (although it is mentioned).
5) My upcoming novel Red is the result of my eldest son asking, “Hey, Mom, what if….?”
6) A ghost story I’ve been planning draws upon personal experiences. The plot is fictional; some of the incidents depicted are not.
7) The idea for a paranormal romantic comedy that was this close to being my next project back in February of 2011 came to me while reading Greek mythology with my son. In keeping with my pattern, by the time I actually sat down and plotted out the story and did all my preliminary character sketches, Greek mythology didn’t play into it at all.
8 ) An epic fantasy novel that I’ve been writing on and off since my late teens was inspired by Orson Scott Card’s novel, Ender’s Game. My story has absolutely nothing in common with Ender’s Game except that the main character starts out as a little boy who ends up being part of something much bigger than he’d ever anticipated.
9) My most recent project, which happens to be a futuristic fantasy romance, came about when I read a scientific article about the future of space exploration. I briefly toyed with the idea of writing this one as a sci-fi (a genre I really enjoy), but I quickly realized I needed to stick with planet Earth, and (of course) ended up going in a totally different direction.
Well, there you have it–a little glimpse inside my head. The thing is, what inspires me might not inspire you, and vice versa. The most important thing to remember is that inspiration is all around you. You just have to be open to it.
All that being said, there are going to be times when it seems like the Inspiration Fairy has gone AWOL and is nowhere to be found. In a couple of upcoming posts I’ll share some of my favorite exercises for dragging that good-for-nothing beyotch back kicking and screaming. Stay tuned!