- Be observant. Look around and wonder about the things you see. Think about why something is happening and what could happen.
- Read. Find a book out of your usual comfort zone. Dig in and see what kinds of ideas come to mind. Consider how something might work in your story.
- Listen. Be a people watcher and people listener. Eavesdrop on conversations. Think about how a conversation might fit in a story.
- Current Events. Follow the news and find something that might make a story. Go beyond national headlines and look for unusual stories.
- Use Prompts. Find a daily prompt to spark a story. Think about a word or a picture and make something out of it.
- Just Type. Go nuts. Type anything that comes to mind. Let you subconscious talk to you. Some of it will spark an idea; much of it will go into the trash.
Now, this isn’t a treatise on what type of music to listen to. I get inspiration from country, rock, pop, or classical styles. However, it is a reminder that music is a powerful way to get you into a particular place or character’s mind. Is it any wonder music soundtracks often hang with us longer than the film? That is because music feeds our inner muse and makes the story stronger.
Merle Haggard’s Seashores of Old Mexico serves as inspiration for my work in progress, Fish Tacos. The song tells a story of a fugitive on the run who discovers love in Mexico and a reason to stay on the run.
In fact, story songs are often the best for prompting a new story. What happened to the protagonist? As a writer, we can tell their next story. So, dig out those old vinyl records or that lost playlist and listen. You might find a story hidden in the feeling you get from the music. Even our muse needs writing music from time-to-time to keep us writing.
On Steemit, the #freewrite group of writers tackles a daily story prompt provided by @mariannewest. Nearly 250 writers participate by writing whatever comes to mind in five minutes. Some of the output rambles around as the writer latches onto a prompt. Other writing comes away seemingly polished regardless of the writer using The Most Dangerous Writing App, a sadistic writing tool promising to give you the finished work as long as you don’t stop writing. Pause for only a second and it eats your words! Needless to say, I am not a fan. I am all for writing as fast as you can and throwing it away. However, I do like to read it first.
Amazon offers a number of writing prompt books. Writers Digest serves up a weekly offering of Creative Writing Prompts. Even if you choose not to write something to fit that prompt, each one often leads to another idea.
Sometimes an entirely random idea pops in my head, which then leads to a story. I read about a white Redwood “ghost tree” standing on the coast of California. A few days later I heard a lawyer complaining about a long deposition – a pre-interview of a witness. This led me to combining the Redwood with a deposition to write A Moment of Pure Truth. I like to think this story might not have started without the story prompt.
I make a habit of writing at least 500 words in the morning. Some of it is trash; bits of ideas and random observations. Some of it ends up in my Scribbles or Conversations. Most of it ends up deleted. Every once in a while, I find a random idea or sentence that might make a story. I then use this idea for further writing later in the day or week.
Story Prompts in the Wild
- You can ask your friends and family for a prompt. What is the first word you can think of? They will probably wonder why you asked, but they can always read the final draft.
- An editor may also give you a prompt. I will pay a lot of clams if you write about a physicist who hates the weird and wonderful world of science. Yeah, I can do that.
- Read the newspaper. Discounting the threat of “fake news” what better place than the newspaper to prompt your next story? Some of the best mysteries start out as news headlines.
Wherever a story prompt comes from it is bound to result in something you can use. If anything, you can always shake out the cobwebs and get on to the real writing.
Leave me a reply and let me know what you think. All feedback helps me get better.
Oh, the Amazon Link sends me a commission.
Photo by Amber Holmes. Used with permission (She’s my cousin!).
You can watch it at http://wordsmithholler.link/Inspiration.
When I was first writing fiction, I struggled to figure out what to write. I honestly stared at the page. Until I found a simple trick. Many tricks really, which I will share with you.
For the past year, I have used this website as my sole method of getting stories out there. Now that I am working at placing stories with publishers, I am looking for even more inspiration.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” — T.S. Eliot
Inspiration means we come full circle. The “Ah hah” moment. We gain knowledge and inspiration from those things we experience and our memories. We must build an inspiration arsenal.
Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” True. Sometimes you just have to write it out and hope something sticks. Then let it fall to the floor. In Hemingway & Gellhorn he says,” Never crumple pages. Always let them float gently into the basket. Any writer who rips out his stuff and crumples it will go insane in a year, guaranteed.” I like the idea of floating paper to the trash. I would float this to the trash, but it’s a huge monitor.
It turns out nobody reads this blog. (more…)
I once toiled as an innkeeper. But my experiences were nothing like described by John Irving.
Inspiration Comes From Experience
I am a product of the American West and my inspiration comes from those people. I take inspiration from their stories and those subjects are close to my heart.
When Tom Booker stopped at a remote four-corners somewhere between Nevada and Utah, I was there. Nicholas Evans reminded me I had been at that crossroads a few times. I understand the loneliness of a desert valley surrounded by a ring of mountains.
I have this great idea for a novel set in Paris, but I have never been there. I struggle to place my characters at a corner cafe I have never set foot in. The story lies flat because I can’t put any description into the place.
Irving wrote about the feeling he had as a child. The deeper context comes from the adult. Maclean also wrote about his family, his childhood, and the pains of adulthood. All wrapped up in these stories are bigger images, but the writers mined subjects close to their hearts to arrive at the wider story.
It is better to stick to subjects you understand and attempt to create deeper meaning. Your experiences fold together to create a grander tapestry. Would it be impossible to write the Paris story? Likely not, if I visited the Arrondissements and smelled, tasted, and wondered.
Stories come easier when the milieu can be seen by the author. Otherwise, a lot of research must be done. Inspiration comes when the writer can just tell the story. Place is easiest arranged when the writer already sits there.[plain]What do you think? Can a writer create a place they have never visited? Or, do you have to experience it first to obtain inspiration? Leave a Comment below.[/plain]