Following on from recent posts concerning spring cleaning, notebooks and keeping hold of all those good ideas, I began musing on my own sources of inspiration for my writing.
|Kids at a sailing regatta - how can I use that?|
First I must make clear that I never use anyone I know as the basis for a character in my stories. Never.
But I do find the lives of other people fascinating, and as often as not a source of inspiration. One of the advantages of being a writer is it allows you to be inquisitive! So it might not be the people I actually know who appear in my novels, but there is a bit of that man I read about in the paper, or the one I saw on the local tv news. Or, best of all, the stories I’ve been told by friends.
I just love hearing about other people’s lives. It’s practically required as a novelist to be interested (and, okay, I was incurably curious long before I was a novelist). Why is the prettiest girl in the year going out with that scruffy boy? When that family claim to be Christians, why do their children look scared rather than loved? Why did X wait until her forties to start a family and then have four children?
There are always the real reasons for these things (which I may or may not know) but far better are the made up ones, the ones that come to me at the most annoying moment when I don’t have pen and paper to hand. Quite often whilst I’m driving: I really should remember to keep a note pad in the car! In fact listening to the radio whilst alone in the car is another useful source of ideas. I once wrote a whole pocket novel inspired by the name Jamie Angus who was a producer (I think) of some radio programme. I could see him immediately, knew his strengths and his foibles, and loved him. Yup, he was definite hero material, and that just from a name.
One of the problems with the way ideas come to me is they are so eclectic. It then takes work to fit that character into an interesting plot, and finding other characters who could feasibly appear alongside him or her. It can be extremely difficult – but it can also be fun! Maybe that uptight couple I saw in the park yesterday could be my heroine’s parents? Or lovely chubby Callum who’s been in my head for years but never quite found his role, could he be the hero’s best friend? It’s an endless puzzle.
Writing is about solving the puzzle, and it is work. But it’s probably some of the best work you can get.