There is so much to say on the nebulous topic of inspiration . . . and also so very little.
Inspiration is an intensely personal thing, so while what works for me might also work for you, it might also simply leave you looking askance at me, and wondering how on earth that helps me to get an idea.
So, rather than try to explain the inexplicable (perhaps another time, that does sound like a fun challenge now I put it that way. . .) I have decided to talk on the idea of inspiration via, well, inspiration.
In other words, rather than discuss ways to make ideas happen, or try to invite them, I am going to focus on the more ‘natural’ form of inspiration that is ideas one did not expect, and how they came about.
I am going to make a note of new original story thoughts that come to me, and what inspired each one, and present that list here as an overview of how the writerly brain – or at least this writer’s brain! – leaps and works in that tricky area of ‘idea’.
My one request? Oh please, just don’t ask me how these thoughts happened! (I am only ever able to trace half of these kinds of thoughts, generously, back to how the original inspiration made that leap to whatever world, character, or scene it brought to mind.)
Story thought: A thought as to what it would be like if humans shed teeth like, say, sharks, growing thousands of teeth over a lifetime. Continuing on into thoughts of how civilisation might have developed over time to make the shedding of teeth more ‘polite’, specifically focusing in Victorian England.
Inspiration? Feeling a sharp fragment of a biscuit caught in my teeth.
Story thought: The basics of a complex magic-system based on plant growth, and, more specifically, the mastery of growing specific types of flowers, depending on what magical effect is desired and how strongly.
Inspiration? Colouring a princess. Her cape, specifically, which has vaguely flowery pouf shapes on it.
Story thought: Sacrificing someone in a fantasy world to a god by binding them to an altar, their limbs dangling off the sides, and lowering it very slowly into a pool of leaping, carnivorous fish.
Inspiration? Lying back on a large chair, my limbs dangling off the edges, while a friend’s dog barked at me from her kennel across the room.
Story thought: A teenager finding out as she grows older that she is an ancient goddess who was put into human form to grow and learn about this newer world. Certain things about her staying, as intrinsic parts of her self, that relate to things for which she was once worshipped.
Inspiration? A friend mentioning a theme she was writing for – ‘modernised mythology’.
Story thought: A weather witch running through a powerful storm, lightning striking in her wake, as though picking out her footprints. Just as a less wild witch might leave flowers blooming in the wake of her footprints, in her world.
Inspiration? A sudden and utter downpour of a storm coming on within a few minutes, with minutes-long rolls of thunder and incredibly bright lightning. (I like to go running in thunderstorms myself anyway.)
Story thought: In a dystopian nation; scanners up along every major thoroughfare that check a microchip embedded in each person as they drive past, and a sign shortly after that changes to reflect where they are now required to go or what they are required to do.
Inspiration? Driving home and seeing a new light-up sign along the highway – not a temporary one, one bolted to the concrete divider between the two sides of the highway.
Story thought: A sorceress queen walking into her own palace after dealing with a minor incursion by a neighbouring country’s army on her own, sweeping into the audience chamber and settling upon her throne, the gathered court assembled to plead their cases to her shuddering in fear.
Inspiration? A picture of a dress with an expansive peacock-feather train.
Story thought: A boy with the power to summon/create creatures, especially mystical ones, from mundane things. i.e. creating a dog from a tree stump, or a songbird from a piece of jewellery, or a dragon from a bed of coals.
Inspiration? A comment from a friend, while we were sitting at the embers of a bonfire, that a particular remnant of burnt log looked as though there were eyes glowing from within it.
Truly, the writer’s brain is an inexplicable mess of connections and ponderings, and nothing ever makes me realise it more than looking at what can come up when I was not thinking of anything in particular.
What is the weirdest thing ever to inspire a story thought for you? Do you chase down those idle thoughts to try and turn them into stories?