Monday, September 13, 2010

Where Inspiration Begins

A common question writers get is, “Where do you get the ideas for your stories?”

Stephanie Meyer had a dream that inspired “Twilight.” JK Rowling had an image of a boy wizard pop into her head while riding a train. Rick Riordan wanted a story for his AD/HD son.

So many people I meet claim they have an “idea for a great story.” It may not be fleshed out, but the seed is there. So there doesn’t seem to be anything unique about getting the idea. It’s what happens after that first prompt that defines a writer.

Every day is full of inspiration if the writer opens their life to those prompts. Maybe not the idea for the next blockbuster book (although who’d object to that, right?), but more often the little things.

Yesterday I was on a walk up in the mountains, on a road where I’d never been before. Aspen trees shivered in the breeze, beams of sunlight lit the road, and birds chirped as they flew overhead. Pretty Thomas Kinkade-esque, really. I’d been walking for a while, up to the point where it was really time to turn back, and yet the next bend in the road beckoned.

Just see what’s on the other side, it called. So I’d walk to the bend and not far ahead the road would curve again. The lure of where that road might ultimately end was tempting enough to have taken me much further than I’d planned to go.

At one point it occurred to me that this was something the main character of the series I’m currently writing would do. He would follow the road, just out of curiosity, only in his world it would lead to getting him into some sort of trouble.

That detail may never make it into a story, but it’s something new I understand about him. And understanding that helps me understand his behavior in other circumstances. It also leads me to ask the next question, “What would he find around the bend that would cause him trouble?”

And that’s how inspiration happens.

Open your mind to ideas, to prompts, to moments, both the large and small. They are everywhere if you put yourself out there. And they are the moments that stories are built upon.

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