I have been asked on many occasions where writing inspiration comes from. What many are asking is where the inspiration to craft a story comes from. Where does a writer or author find something that inspires them to write?
Many treats inspiration like it was something supernatural. Worse, they wait for it like it was something supernatural. Wait for that ultimate moment of absolute clarity when a story shows itself to them in full detail. They are filled with a glow which they transfer from their brains to the computer and win tons of awards and suffer the adulation of the rest of the world for the rest of their lives.
I admit there are some stories I believe came from diving intervention. However, for the other 99.999%, it really comes down to hard work and an open mind. Yes, I said hard work and an open mind. If you open yourself up to possibilities stories flow. Often too many will come to you.
I had a moment of inspiration about four years ago. My wife and I were at a Meijers in Indianapolis late one night picking up some food. We were picking up some eggs or something normal. As I looked around, I began to think about what we were doing. My mind took this and asked a simple question. It asked me what we would do if the store was suddenly invaded by aliens.
Being open to possibilities, my mind fell back on the original ideas behind Pan’s Naughty Flute. An ordinary person subjected to extraordinary circumstances. What would happen if this simple act of going to a store became an intense erotic affair? Or a dangerous terrorist attack? Or a supernatural experience? An alien abduction?
Stephen King talks about filters. In his mind he sees the possibilities of horror or mysteries. Yet, he also sees in other fields. He openly admits his world view is skewed towards the macabre. My mind is skewed towards ordinary people experiencing the extraordinary.
Tank is a perfect example. I was asked: what was the motivation behind writing Tank? That was easy. The original motivation behind Tank was to speak about child abuse. Specifically, the rape of your boys and the ignorance of society about such actions. Rape is about girls. It is about men forcing themselves on girls and women. It is rarely about the long-term abuse young boys are subjected to.
Abuse was what inspired me to write the original draft of Tank. A one hundred and thirty thousand word tome to the unjust, the abused, the rape of young boys. Yet, it wasn’t the real story. The story was about the survival of two young men from a house of horrors.
See, no matter how much I know that happy endings are hard to come by, they do happen. Some would argue that the ending of Tank isn’t happy, but I would disagree. In the end, the hard work put into the story by myself, my wife, and several others crafted a book I am proud of.
I just said hard work. Yes, inspiration requires hard work. I know, work is perhaps the vilest of the four letter words. However, it is also the most rewarding. Inspiration does take work. You must work at it. To let your mind be open enough to see inspiration all around you. There are stories everywhere.
Look at something ordinary. Imagine what would happen if it turned into a romance? A romantic comedy? A mystery? A murder mystery with a twist for an ending? When you start asking questions your mind seeks answers. It will create stories to answer those questions.
I honestly think 95% of inspiration is simply asking questions. Say you want to write a book based upon real events. You start by asking yourself what happened? Your mind begins to churn. You ask more questions. Ask about the characters involved. Asked about the times the event happened.
One of those movies I like is Hidden Figures. It honestly isn’t about some story about race or sex. It depicts a time in our country when the rules were different and shows three extraordinary women who strive to make changes for themselves in a world that doesn’t want them to.
There is a scene in the movie where Kevin Costner beats on a sign on a restroom until it is dismantled. He then says NASA is now desegregated. Did he do this for future peace among the different races on the base? No, he did it because one of his employees took too long to go to the bathroom. He needed his “computer,” so he did what he needed to ensure she was available when he needed her, nothing more.
I like this scene because it demonstrates the truth about a lot of people of those times. I was a kid in Virginia back then. I lived it as much as anyone else. I don’t know if this scene actually happened, but I hope whatever inspired the writers to put this scene in understood it wasn’t about race relations but about productivity.
The scene was inspired. Most books revolve around one scene which inspired the writer to remember it. To write it down then do the work to craft something worthwhile from the experience.
Our romance The Lodge was a work based upon a single event which inspired me to start the book. I turned it over to another writer since what I had done was so awful it made everyone laugh. Romances are not my thing. I will stick to the darker sides of humanity. However, the original inspiration for the book came from an event I was party to.
I was in a bar one day after work. It was a Friday, and I was in Virgina Beach. I was single, moody, and mean that night. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. All I wanted was to sit at the bar, nurse a beer, and eat chicken wings until I calmed down enough to be human.
Up comes a pair of girls. Dressed to the nines. I figured I must have looked like a target. Lone guy in his forties sitting alone at a bar. A good guy to get to buy you drinks all night until something better comes along.
To say I was pissed about two girls pushing their boobs in my face to get me to buy them drinks would be an understatement. First thing is, I don’t like to be touched. Second, I don’t like company when I want to chill. These girls didn’t take a hint. So, I did something I hate. I was rude. Extremely rude. When this didn’t get rid of them, I went past rude and straight to mean.
The incident stayed with me. I wrote it down. Then I changed it to a fictionalized version. I shopped it around. Asked several of my writers in our group what they thought. Most laughed at me. Found it funny a couple of girls tried to use me for drinks.
However, it inspired me to write a treatise which would ultimately become The Lodge. A unique romance story crafted by Jocelyn Lockhart who herself was inspired by the incident to create incredible characters. All from a moment of my own inspiration.
Inspiration is all around you. It is in your past, your present, and your future. It is in the cup of coffee you drink and the decisions you make each day. It floats around hoping you will stop waiting for it to strike. Inspiration comes to those who work at it. To those who take the tiniest of things and use them to create incredible stories. Let your mind work. Let it ask questions only a writer wants answered.
Take that cup of coffee. What would happen if it was poisoned? Or laced with some kind of bioweapon or a hallucinogen? What if it spilled? What does this spill cause that turns your world upside down? Remember the old children’s story about a bug that sneezed? What happens when you get up to clean the spilled coffee only to fall and hit your head so hard you die? Or wake up in an alternate universe?
Inspiration is simply an answer to a question. Will you ask one and let your mind go free?
I’m Ross, the Editor-in-Chief at The Pyrateheart Press and I’m out.