Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Stories Are Everywhere

I was a bit stuck for what to blog about this week, so I asked Twitter. Someone suggested blogging about not knowing what to blog about, but I couldn't think what to say (yeah, I'm hopeless!). Then someone else said, 'Why not blog about what inspires you?'

Hmmm. That got me thinking. I've blogged before about Eureka Moments – those times when an idea suddenly flashes into your head, bringing to life part (or all) of a story which previously, was lurking in the background, scuffing its feet and refusing to look at you.

But these moments are not the only thing which create my stories. If they were, I'd be doing a lot of hanging around, waiting for them to turn up. Instead, what I try to do is be open to those things in everyday life which might become the seeds of ideas.

I see and hear hundreds of things every day which could become part of my stories, often without even realising until the moment when I actually need them arrives. Quite often, photographs For example, while looking online for pictures of people who looked like my characters in ACID, I found this image:
Image source - rasmus ledin on Tumblr

As soon as I saw this photo a name came into my head – Myo. And Myo is now one of the main characters in my new novel, THE FEARLESS, which I'm currently editing. At first, I wasn't sure what his role was going to be, but there was something about this photo that told me he had a secret, and as soon as I realised that, I realised what this secret was, and where he'd fit in the story. Around the same time, I stumbled across a website about a place called Hashima Island in Japan (also known as Gunkanjima - 'Battleship Island' – and recently used to inspire a location in the latest James Bond film). The images on this site have been a major source of inspiration for one of the main locations in THE FEARLESS, which is set in a near-future, post-apocalyptic Britain. (The website where I found out about Hashima, gakuran.com, has some incredible photos of ruins and abandoned buildings, so if you're writing your own post-apoc and want inspiration, check it out!) 

Image source - mab-ken on Flickr (licensed for use under Creative Commons)
Music, too, can provide inspiration. The type of music depends on the type of book I'm writing, but certain pieces of music can make a scene spring into life inside my head, sometimes long before I'm ready to start writing it. This is one of the reasons I make soundtracks for my books which I listen to almost exclusively while I'm writing the various drafts (you can see the THE FEARLESS's soundtrack in this post here).

And what about other books? Some people don't read when they're writing to stop themselves being influenced by other people's work, or won't read anything in a similar genre to the book they're working on, but for me, this would be like stopping breathing. While I would never copy anything another author has done (that's called plagiarism, people, and it's a VERY BAD IDEA), seeing how other writers approach problems similar to ones I might be having in my own writing is incredibly useful, especially with a book like THE FEARLESS which is turning out to be quite complex (3 POVs at the moment, and multiple plotlines with a lot of backstory).

But inspiration doesn't have to come from anything so concrete. It can be sparked off by anything: a gesture, a word, a sound, the way the sun slants across the horizon, the sound of a dog barking being carried on the wind… any number of those tiny, fleeeting moments that set your senses tingling and make you want to reach for your pen (or laptop) and write.

Stories are everywhere. They're just waiting for us to find them.

17 comments:

  1. Great post, Emma. Myo looks/sounds intriguing.

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  2. I get a lot of inspiration just as I'm about to fall asleep...hmmm, thankfully I can grab my notebook or phone and make quick notes...I fall asleep better if I know I've noted it down, otherwise I'm sure to be blank when I try to recall it!

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    1. Me too, Lisa! My phone is very useful in those situations – I can make a quick note in a text message and I'm not trying to write in the dark!

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    2. Me too! The amount of times I've woken up to find garbled memos on my phone!
      NEVER go to sleep thinking you'll remember it - you won't!
      Mind you a fair few of my 'brillant' midnight ideas aren't quite so brilliant the next morning! Sleep logic doesn't always translate!

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  3. What a great post! I feel like inspiration is such a hard thing to explain.... I wouldn't really know where to start either. :)

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  4. This was a really good post for me to read today because I wanted to blog but for one of the first times ever (in two years) I'm not happy with anything I think of. Thank you. And your new book sounds fascinating, can't wait (or for ACID!!).

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    1. Thank you, Julia! I do find it hard to think what to blog about sometimes… asking Twitter really helped!

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  5. Thanks Emma. Good blog and a timely reminder to get my act together and stop waiting for inspiration to come and slap me around the face.

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    1. Ha ha, glad you found it useful, Lynn! :D

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  6. It's always interesting to see where other writers get their inspiration, and I'm a firm believer that you can't just sit around waiting for it to happen - even if you don't much feel like writing or aren't sure what to write about, then just sit down, pull the keyboard towards you (or pen and paper if you prefer) and start writing. It's the only way. The inspiration is inside you and all around you, just waiting to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into your work. Jack London put it neatly . . . 'You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.' And with 20+ novels and countless short stories under his belt, I reckon he knew what he was talking about.

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    1. Dan, you're so right. Most of the time I only find I get inspired if I'm already writing. If I waited for it to arrive, I'd probably write a page a year!

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  7. I find a lot of stuff seeps in without me realising it, favourite films, books, minor characters that stick with you more than the main ones, a subplot you wish had gone the opposite way...

    Every now and and then I'll watch a film and spot bits that have influenced me in some way without me even noticing! (Had a crazy 30 seconds over Christmas watching Gandalf fingting a Balrog thinking 'Oh no I have STOLEN from Lord of the Rings!!!!!' I really haven't, I promise!)

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    1. Definitely! I've had those moments of panic too (especially when I've heard about a book that sounds similar to what I'm writing). They're not much fun! :O

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  8. Great post! I sometimes use Pinterest to corral all those pictures of interesting places and characters, like Myo. And I do that 'aural wallpaper' thing too: one soundtrack per project. It's a great way to get into the zone.

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