Tagged: inspiration

Finding the Spark 0

A short list of ways to find story ideas:

  • 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.


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Feeding Your Muse with Music 0

Sometimes the best way to fill a blank page is to feed your muse with some writing music. While I would love to have a writing table overlooking the ocean near the cliffs of Big Sur, I can still get there with some music to remind me of the atmosphere and the setting. Of course, writing music also helps me get into a new scene or chapter.

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.



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Write Fiction with a Story Prompt 0

I am a big fan of story prompts whether they consist of a word, a sentence, an idea, or a photo. The story prompt serves as a launch pad for creativity and it prompts the writer to see inward, consider possibilities, and think how the reader will respond.

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!).



Finding the Spark: Inspiration 0

On April 21, 2017, I hosted a webinar titled Finding the Spark: Inspiration. There was no sales pitch – just a half hour to explore writing ideas and how to find inspiration.

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.



March 15, 2017 Scribble 0

I spent twenty minutes holding my head to the right as a doctor went in again for my fourth thyroid biopsy. “Boy this is really deep,” he said. “Yep, maybe you’ll be the guy,” I said. It is clear with have a nodule or two. We don’t clearly know if it is cancer. “At least if it is cancer, this is the best one to get,” said my endocrinologist. “It takes so long to grow.” Comforting. While other writers are busy taking people to other places, I’m in an endless loop of out-patient surgery. No, you would not be interested in the waiting, prodding, and sore neck. It doesn’t jump off as one of those stories you want to hear.

***

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…)



Inspiration: Mining Subjects Close to My Heart 0

I grew up trout fishing. But I will never be able to capture the river like Norman Maclean.

I once toiled as an innkeeper. But my experiences were nothing like described by John Irving.

inspiration

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]


A Ghost Story – Ghosts Wished People Believed 0

ghost story, creative writing, short story, ghosts, haunted house, football, magic, fantasy
A few of the residents believed they lived in a haunted house. To the ghosts, it seemed unlikely anyone believed. They bumped into the living without the slightest notice. Sometimes they made a sudden movement to remind each other they were still around. They bounced among the residents coloring happy memories or darkening deep regrets. Never had they sparked passion in the hearts of the living. The ghosts wished people believed.
 
Tommy woke from an afternoon nap. He rubbed his eyes, stretched up his arms, and crunched his knuckles. A ghost bounced a light stream around the cracking fingers. The light then flashed away. The ghost hung above the bed. An idea popped into Tommy’s head. He smiled at the sudden thought.
 
This time he would do it. Weighing only 98 pounds, more or less, his mother had told him he was too small to play football.
 
“You’re better suited to chess,” she would say.
 
But he wanted to grind his toe in the grass and scuff up his shoes until they were green. He yearned to slip the shoulder pads on, bury his head in the helmet, and chew on the mouthpiece.
 
Today he would race down the field and catch the winning pass. This was going to be his year; he would not be too short, too skinny, too uncoordinated. He was playing football, no matter what. Of course, mother would never approved. He let that thought slip away.
 
He climbed to end of the bed on his elbows and pushed up to the edge. His spindly feet touched the cold floor. He jerked up before setting them down again on the concrete. Should he stay in bed?
 
He considered his plan. It is nice and warm in here. He looked back at the paperback he was reading. The next chapter could be good. He snapped out of his doubt. No, I have to do this.
 
Across the street from the old house, two teams gathered on a long field of green. Tommy grabbed his helmet and shoulder pads and rushed across the street. He slowed as he reached the edge of the grass and paused. He thought better of the idea. He turned back.
 
Tommy missed his chance to retreat. A large hand grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled out on the field. On the line, a hulk known as Smasher thumped Tommy’s helmet down hard over his head. Tommy bit down deeper into his mouthpiece. Smasher smiled a deep satisfying grin. He crouched down opposite the wimpy football player.
 
“You’re going down,” said Smasher. Tommy cringed. “Not likely,” he said under his breath. Tommy breathed in and stared into Smasher’s eyes. Blood gathered in his veins.
 
Tommy slipped sideways to avoid the mass facing off from him. Smasher followed and crouched back into a stance. Tommy trembled at the thought of grizzled terror bearing down on his small frame. He stepped backward and started to pull up but missed his chance to flee. The quarterback counted down, the ball snapped, and both lines pushed together. Tommy froze.
 
He started counting. One, two. Tommy didn’t get to three.
 
Smasher lunged forward before grabbing Tommy by the waist. He twirled Tommy above the crumbling defenders. He pushed him high above the tangled bodies and laughed. Smasher curled the smaller player downward and then pushed him back up. A weak scream escaped from Tommy as Smasher reached higher and higher. Tommy hung above the field in slow motion. He could see the entire team below him collapsing into a twisted heap. Smasher dropped his prey.
 
Before falling onto the mangled mass, Tommy saw an entire stand of cheering fans. The crowd vanished in a blink as Tommy landed on the pile below. Mom would not like this, he decided.
 
Tommy lay on the ground for a few more minutes before pulling himself up. He limped to the side of the field and fell down again on the grass. He stared up at the clouds rolling passed. He smiled a satisfied grin. After a few minutes, two orderlies placed him on a stretcher and carted him off to the infirmary.
 
“What you don’t seem to remember,” said the nurse “is that you are 84-years-old and too fragile to be playing football.” She placed an ice bag on Tommy’s knee. He covered the bag and smiled up at her.
 
Both men sat in the library playing chess and grinning. It had been a good day.
 
“And you, Mr. David Lemboski.” The nurse pushed away a wandering hand from the bottom of her skirt. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Trying to pick up a grown man over your head!” She smacked the back of his head and walked away to the nurse’s station.
 
“You know Smasher,” Tommy said. “I never felt more alive.”
 
The two men turned to the chessboard between them. Smasher picked up a rook and put his queen in jeopardy. Tommy considered a sudden revelation. “Mom was right. I should have stuck to chess.”
 
Touching the ceiling, two ghosts hovered above Tommy and Smasher feeling very alive. They then floated through the pieces on the game board. Tommy and Smasher advanced through the squares. The ghosts picked up speed and flew across the room.
 
They drifted over to join a group of other faded personages. Both ghosts shined brighter than the rest. One in particular seemed very pleased and she beamed a sliver of light down to the chessboard.
 
Tommy looked over at the two happy ghosts and winked. A wave of happiness extended from the ghost of his mother to his eyes. He chuckled. She nodded in approval. Tommy realized it didn’t matter anymore what she thought.
 
The line of ghosts drew inward forming a common light, floated through the chess pieces, and then shot out the window. Tommy watched them disappear. The truth was very clear to him. They lived in a haunted house.
 
 Copyright 2013, Michael S. Sommermeyer. All Rights Reserved.

Inspiration: