Where do you get your inspiration from?

It’s such a common question for writers to ask and be asked. Now that I’m contemplating writing another novel, I’m asking it myself.

Many people, when they find out I write, say, ‘Oh, I’ve got so many amazing ideas for a novel.’ Really? Generally speaking, I haven’t got any. I have a hunch that those people who are brimming over with ideas are often the people who never actually get around to putting pen to paper. Whilst those of us who struggle to come up with one paltry crumb of a story are the ones who actually see it through to the end. Perhaps that’s just me trying to console myself. What does it matter anyway?

The point is you have to come up with something. But, how? Some people trawl through news stories to see if anything grabs them. Some trawl through their own lives. Some use writing exercises to spark off ideas.

Personally, I don’t find I can force a novel to come to me this way. What I try to do is simply to keep my mind on the alert and open to all possibilities. It may be that the most innocuous thought or circumstance has the potential to grow into a story if I allow it.

The novel I’ve just written began with a childhood memory of a teenage boy being knocked off his bicycle outside our house and ringing the bell, all bloodied from his injuries. I didn’t write anything down at first. I simply allowed this image to breathe and expand in my mind. I conjured a character who would complement this boy and I got to know her. I developed a vague notion of the plot and pictured the key settings. Most of all, I cultivated a strong sense of the overall feeling of the novel; the kind of atmosphere I wanted to create and the emotional temperature. By the time I allowed myself to start tapping away on the keys, I was raring to go.

As far as the next novel is concerned, I have one or two possibilities simmering away. But I gladly welcome any suggestions. My swimming club friends believe I should write a swimming club novel, like a Jackie Collins, full of parental rivalry, bile and recrimination. Start off with a body floating in the pool and take it from there. Yea, but I’m interested in creating fiction, guys, not regurgitating the facts of life.

broken goggles

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3 Responses to Where do you get your inspiration from?

  1. Andy Wilson says:

    An idea is a snapshot in time, like a photo. One click and you have it. Easy. But a novel, well that’s something very different. Perhaps that’s why great ideas don’t easily transmute into great novels.

    But what are your options? Are you quite genre specific or could you try something completely different? Tortuous love triangles? Mystery? Historical? I think most writers have a genre they write best in. But how did they find that out? Was it the first thing they tried or did they experiment?

    Your blogs can be quite funny. But also slightly dark. It’s a good mix. Could that be next?

    It’ll be easy for me because I’m probably going to do a sequel!

  2. claudia says:

    If only I had a sequel!
    The darkness definitely comes out in my writing. Less so the humour. Mystery and historical I don’t think are for me. Tortuous love triangles, maybe, if you put the emphasis on the tortuous. I am interested in writing about the dubious motivations that lie behind of a lot of human behaviour and about the way people are unconsciously skewed by their experiences. I shouldn’t really be short of potential material there, should I?

  3. Andy Wilson says:

    Well I guess sequels only work if the preceding novel is a success, so there’s a certain risk factor too. Could be a lot of effort for nothing. Or a lot of waiting and in the meantime the trail goes cold.

    Dubious motives? People living false lives? Deception, maybe betrayal too? Or just the unexpected consequences, the fallout and collateral damage, and having to deal with them? The question I ask myself from time to time: what’s in it for the reader? Or, to go back a stage further, who is that reader? How relevant are they?

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