Thursday, July 19, 2012

Writing - Inspiration

It is an age old question, "where do you get your inspiration from?" Many of the top authors answer in different ways. Stephen King for example always says he plays the "What if" game. For example, What if a man woke up one morning and found his legs were gone? What if you had the opportunity to skip to anywhere in history or in the future? What if one day everyone stopped moving? He then takes the idea and begins writing. It is a simple idea and has served him well.

Other "how to" books suggest you read the newspaper headlines for ideas. For example, one quick glance at a random page in my local paper and two headlines jump out at me: "Lightning starts fire in house" and "teacher says sex claims "made-up"." If we take the first of the headlines. Imagine if everyone in that house except for a young boy died. How would that boy react? Would he be thankful and go on and make the most of his life? Would he be bitter and have a vendetta against the world? If we take the second of those: What is really going on? Is the teacher telling the truth? Are their pupils out to get him? What if he was having an affair with a student and a jealous student found out and wanted to punish him? By just considering this ideas, more ideas spawn and the beginnings of a story take place.

The idea behind The Ritual of Stones came to me one night when I was feeding my first baby. At the time I had just read the Wolves of Calla by Stephen King and Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon. I was so impressed I wanted to emulate those works. I was also listening to Kings of Leon. Whilst thinking about a combination of all three the idea slowly came to me. I got Joseph to sleep and frantically scribbled down a scene. That scene turned into a chapter the next night and from there the story took place. For a long time I kept that chapter and tried to make it fit into the story as it evolved, mainly because it was where the book came from. However around the second edit of the whole book I eventually got rid of it. It added nothing great to the story and the main character behaved so uncharacteristically in contrast to how they were in the rest of the book it made no sense.

What does that have to do with inspiration I hear you ask? Well impatient reader let me tell you. Where ever you get you ideas from, when they do strike write them down as soon as you can. Not the next day or week, I am talking within the next few hours. I am not going to suggest carrying a notebook around with you everywhere you go, but I echo the sentiment. Write down the premise of the idea and then also a few paragraphs. Those paragraphs are crucial. You may not use those them in the final version but they are important as they capture the tone and "voice" of the story.

There have been so many times I have come up with the idea of a story, captured the outline but when I have sat down to write the thing, I can't find that original voice I had when I thought of the idea. I can't capture the frame of mind I was in.

George R R Martin was famously working on something else when the first chapter of A Game of Thrones came to him. He immediately stopped what he was doing and wrote it down. Thank God he did.

The same goes for short stories. When I've had an idea for a short story, I have written out the first third of that draft within a couple of hours. I've written four short stories since I started writing again and all have been written in a matter of days. Three of them when I was in full flow of writing Ritual of the Stones. Where did those ideas come from?

Route 246 - I was on my way home from work and a woman started acting bizarrely on the bus.
Grief - I was angry at how a relative had treated my wife.

The other two stories came from events that affected me personally.

Where has the inspiration for this blog post come from? I have just come up with a really good idea for a standalone book. It literally came out of nowhere and would fit so well in today's market that I almost want to drop everything and start on it now. That first chapter is flowing through me as I type. Maybe I will just ......