Now that we’ve looked at photographs as inspiration, and read each other’s pieces to see the depth of inspiration that can be found in a single image, I’d like to talk about other kinds of inspiration. Basically: what inspires you?
I find this kind of question is a little like asking an author where they get their ideas. You may get a really cool story about how a book they read when they were 15 compelled them to learn more about the myths and theories of Atlantis, which lead to an interest in scuba diving, which lead to their YA novel about mermaids… or you could get a groan, a sigh, or a punch in the face. Hopefully not the later, but you never know. Authors can be violent about this question.
Anyway, what I’m asking here isn’t the more mania-inducing “where do you get your ideas?”, but the more general “what inspires you?”.
It might be the same answer for you, in which case I’ll ask that you refrain from any violence. But maybe you have a different story to share, about a book you read that lit a spark in you, or a store window display that begged to be stared at for hours, or a conversation with a kid that had you wanting to know all the answers to their questions, even if you had to make them up.
What is it for you? Where do you find your inspiration?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!
18 thoughts on “So What Inspires You?”
You know, I have to admit it: good stories inspire me. Stories where I care about the characters, where I didn't guess the next plot twist, where the use of words is beautiful to savor. It's always been the case for me that what I want to do with my stories is what those stories did for me: inspire.
Lots of things inspired my WIP: an old encyclopedia, my grandfather's last words to me, the cry of a bird from a hollow mountain, the history of folklore and mythology in my country, Roald Dahl and the way my dad's stories always seem too good to be true, but never are.
So many different things inspire me. Music is a big one (can I make up a story that goes along with the lyrics?).
I even got the inspiration for one of my works-in-progress from a library history textbook! Historical places and events are good, too-even if you don't intend on writing a story set in the past 🙂
For me, it's something wholly different from my norm, whether it be an amazing scientific discovery outside my field that makes my head start spinning about the possibilities, or walking through a dark wilderness and wondering what lies just beyond the edge of the trail, or seeing an old building, and wondering what might have happened in there long ago.
I saw a piece on John Saul one time – he travels the country in a big RV, poking around in random abandoned buildings in the lost byways of america, visiting old towns, and generally looking for the scary in the everyday everywhere he goes….
Finding out some tiny fact that someone else might not know, and wondering how it might play into a narrative, where revealing it could be a precious bit of joy and discovery – letting someone else experience that same feeling you had when you first learned it.
All that inspires me!!!
I am inpsired by symbolism. I love how all things of this world hold meanings that most people never even take the time to discover.
About a year ago someone told me to read the book Animal Speak. At first I shrugged off their suggestion thinking that I probably would not be interested in that type of book. After stumbling upon a site called My Inner Journey, I wandered into the virtual library and clicked on a book (the book you click on is supposedly meant for you to read) I was taken back when I clicked on a book and Animal Speak popped up. It was enough to convince me to go and purchase the book. I have a different outlook on animals now and because of this book view their appearance in my life as messages. I know it sounds out there but it really is amazing. After noticing spiders a lot. I looked up their symbolism in the book and was astonished to discover that they symbolized the writer.
I incorporate symbolism in all of my writing. It's like hiding an egg on easter. You don't know where it is at first but when it is discovered it brings a smile to your face.
Things that make me want to pull out my hair on a day to day basis, like breaking your toe, or dropping a glass on the floor…or both simultaneously. When really irritating things happen, I pull out that little gray metal drawer, and stick it in the writing file in my brain. I write them down when I get a minute.
Being around my fifteen-year-old sister is mega inspiring, because crazy stuff happens in high school, and even if it isn't that crazy–it is through her eyes. It takes me back to what it was like to be so embarrassed, boy crazy, giggly, etc. It gives me the perspective I need for writing YA.
Great books and great movies inspire me. My husband and I recently rented SHERLOCK HOLMES from the Redbox (we have an almost-three-year-old and an almost-one-year-old, so we don't get out much), and we were only about fifteen minutes into the movie when I looked at him and said, "Okay, now I'm itching to write." LORD OF THE RINGS (books or movies) do the same thing. And whenever I'm not feeling quite ready to write (but know I need to get cracking), I just pick up whatever book happens to be on my end table (THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, at the moment) and start reading. That always puts me in the mood:)
People and the situations they find themselves in inspire me. I see someone do something – take some action or make some choice – and I think, "what if they had done this instead?" Suddenly I'm off creating a character that would face a similar situation but make a completely different decision.
Families especially inspire me. I think often in Fantasy – my genre of choice – we get caught up with the orphan or the young man who leaves his family behind to do something great. But that is rarely the case for us. Our families shape us and color how we see the world. I like creating complex and real families and seeing how this affects the hero.
Travel. I write a lot of historical YA magical realism, so traveling to Europe, where the history just pops alive at every corner, is a major inspiration.
Also, I draw a lot of inspiration from an overactive imagination. I'll observe something small and seemingly insignificant happen and think "What if this happens next?" … "And then what if that happens?" … "Ooooh! And then this happens?"
Location definitely inspires me.
I always remember driving by an old lakeside motel in Indiana, deserted and buried behind overgrowth, and the need to shape a story around it was immediate. As were the ideas for possible plot, characters, etc.
For my WIP: Afternoons making fun of Godzilla movies with my brother.
Good books definitely inspire me to write better. Critique partners, too. It's amazing how even when you think a story is done, another critique can inspire you to make changes that take a story to another place! My kids inspire me every day. Sometimes visiting a place inspires me to write about it. I guess I'm surrounded by all sorts of inspiration 🙂
I'm fascinated by obscure and ancient beliefs; Voodoo, mythology, the occult… I'm also inspired by places; particularly those with a sordid or mysterious past.
I get a lot of inspiration doing mindless tasks like showering or driving. Sleeping is a big one! There have been several times I've woken in the morning and an idea will hit me. Sometimes it will be just a few sentences that I draw out into a story- sometimes it is the ending. I think shutting my brain off from all the everyday business allows me to listen to my muse.
Also, my six-year-old son inspires me a lot. Funny things he does or says will set something off in my brain and a story will grow from it.
Oh, and for those of you worried about the mindless driving thing, I live in AZ- trust me, you don't want to pay too much attention while driving out here or you will be too scared to leave the house. 🙂
Good stories inspire. People inspire me. Moments. Situations. It could be as simple as a smell. It's hard to say, really, but I think what inspires me most is authors!
Looking out the windows when I travel always inspires me!
This isn't always the case, but the novel I'm sending out to agents right now was definitely written to deal with some real-world frustrations. I started writing it when I was studying in Japan and living in a tense host family situation – I actually started the book to entertain myself while on a thirteen-hour overnight drive with them.
When I was no longer living with them, I was still working on the story, but the going was a little slower. Then I was turned down from my dream job, and I finished the whole thing in two weeks. I don't usually use what's going on in my real life as fuel for my writing, but in this case, it worked out.
It also helped that I was living in Tokyo, which is wonderful inspiration regardless, but it's even more perfect when you're writing a riff on ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
Great works of art inspire me. I write historical fiction and fantasy, and I always tape artwork from the time period I am working on all around my workspace for inspiration. Portraits of characters, landscapes, interiors, etc… They help me develop characters and a sense of place. I also love to listen to music from the time period as well.