Monday, May 25, 2009

Muse, Music, Inspiration, Whatever

Okay, for this fantastic Memorial Day (it's raining here, insert sarcasm), I thought I'd throw out the topic of inspiration. Muse, ideas, dreams, whatever you want to call it.

Where do your story ideas come from?

This is not how you inspire yourselves to write. No, no, no, my friends. Pretend I'm like, Barbara Walters or better yet--Oprah, and you're on my show (this blog) and you're a multi-million dollar author with a series of books on the NYT's bestselling list. Okay...are you there? Got that image in your head? It's nice, isn't it? They're passing around goblets of Ginger ale and bowls of bubble gum sit on glass-topped tables...

Ahem. Stay with me. So the question is, How did you come up with the idea for your story?

I have a couple:

1. Music. More specifically, the lyrics in said music. I have a post coming up on this so I won't elaborate. Stay tuned for Wednesday though! It's gonna be a wild ride! *snarf*

2. Playing the "What If...?" game. This game basically goes like this.

Me: sitting at stoplight on the way to work. Creative Self, what would happen if time stopped right here, right now?

Creative Self: You wouldn't get paid. You don't go to work, you don't get paid.

Me: Forget about money. What if... Jon couldn't get to Annie in time? What if she became a ghost? What if Jesse kissed Rosemary? What if Gabby fell off that wall? How would she survive? What if Adam really is a traitor? What if DL died? What would that do to Bristol? Could she even survive that? Could Landon? What if... What if... What if... ???

I love this game. You should totally try it. Maybe not at the stoplight, but sometime. It can be played alone or in groups of up to five.

3. Take a shower, fold the laundry, push your kid on the swing. I get random ideas and spurts of insight into current stories doing mundane things. In fact, when I'm feeling particularly "blocked" I love turning the shower on as hot as possible and just standing there for a while. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but I have received flashes of so-called brilliance whilst showering. Try to get that image out of your head. *ROTFL* Or better yet, use the word "whilst" in a blog post in the near future.

Which leads me to 4. Words. That's right, all you writers of words. I use words to inspire me. I keep notebooks of words I like. Things like "whilst" and "pontificate" and "gem" and "inked" and "prowled" and a whole host of others. Sometimes just being able to see those fun and unique words will help me write a sentence that uses words in exactly the way I want. And that makes writing fun. And if it's not fun, it's hard to do.

So that's it for me. I don't dream. I don't have a magical wand (which would be totally kewl). I don't have a sweet formula.

So inspiration...

Where do you get yours?


Rachael said...

Dreams. The crazier the better. Andra came from a dream I had. One of the scenes at the middle story is basically a written version of the dream which is amazingly helpful with the description.

The rest of them come from random moments. When I'm trying to go to sleep usually is when they pop into my head and I have to find a notebook and right them down really quick before I forget.

Any time when I don't have access to a notebook is another one. My most recent idea came while I was watching a school track meet and I had to keep it in my head for twenty minutes until I could get out to my notebook in the car.

Michelle McLean said...

Hmm, well, I do do the dream thing occasionally. I also do the shower/dishes thing - I get a LOT of ideas while in the shower or doing the dishes. Maybe it's the whole warm water and nothing else to keep your mind occupied thing.

And I also have a music post coming up next week :D Music lyrics or sometimes just the emotions a song triggers will pop a scene into my head.

And the word thing also works for me sometimes. Like I'll come across a phrase in a song or movie or something that I think would make a great title...and then I start thinking of a story to go with that title.

I recently got an idea for a book although now I can't think of where or why I thought of it :D (I have no short term memory anymore) - I know the tv was on though, so it must have been a phrase I heard in passing. OH! I think it was a quote I came across while looking for the quote of the day for my blog :D

Pictures inspire me - I'll see a picture of an awesome nature scene or a castle or a couple holding hands or something and it just makes me want to write about whatever I'm looking at.

And really, just about anything will, or can, inspire me. I told my husband last have to be careful what you say to a writer, because it might end up in a book one day :D

Danyelle L. said...

I used to get inspiration from dreams, but now I'm so tired that I fall asleep in my dreams. Sometimes it's just a random thought. Usually if I listen well enough, the characters just tell me what to do. I've become very good at taking orders from imaginary people. And if I get stuck, I just ignore it for a day or so and the characters suddenly become willing to talk and negotiate. :D

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Hmm...I think most of my ideas happen either when I run (because adrenaline highs are the BEST)or when I am doing something terribly mundane (laundry, etc). My other source - DREAMS. Seriously...I have dreams all the time. And not little black and white whatever dreams. But major dream SAGAs ALL THE TIME. My first couple of books were inspired by a repetitive dream. And my current WiP was first a dream as well.

The what-if game comes when I right. But I usually don't start that characters do :D

(PS love the bubblegum visual!)

Abby Annis said...

A lot of my ideas come in the car. Blasting some Evanescence usually gets the creative juices flowing. Then I'm frantically scribbling at the stoplight to get it down on paper before I forget.

I play the "What if?" game too, usually on my husband. Makes him crazy, so that makes it even more fun. :) I get a lot of, "You're changing it again?!" Good times.

When I was trying to come up with an idea for my WIP, I had a dream and woke up and thought, "That would be a really great book." Then I went back to sleep and don't remember anything about it, except that it was about aliens. So that was helpful.

This is totally off topic--Just wondering what's going on with your dialogue contest from a week or so ago. Did I miss something?

Casey Something said...

The shower is my genius box. I swear. So many things become clear to me in the shower. Maybe it's because I'm actually holding still, relaxing, not multitasking amongst kids. IDK.

Other inspiration comes from music, movies, books, and dreams. Some bit of interest will snag me and it'll turn into its own unique story.

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, tons of inspiration here. I, too, am so tired when I lay down to sleep that the dreams just aren't a possibility for me.

And Abby, I'm just lame like that. I actually have my "catch up" post scheduled for this Friday and that's when that will go up. Sorry!

C. N. Nevets said...

Some inspiration comes from odds and ends, such as music or life observations or random imagery that catches my attention.

More often than that, I'm playing with words in my mind and happen onto a phrase that I like and I think about whether there's a story that surrounds that phrase.

But most often it's really quite deliberate. I typically have an idea I want to explore. Usually something philosophical, sociological, theological... And always something that has a dramatic and immediate impact on personal psychology. So I set to exploring how that plays out.

Abby Annis said...

That's cool, and you are so not lame. I wish I had enough ideas for posts that I had to do a "catch up" post. :)

Scott said...

Great post, and very in sync with my weekend. Are you reading my mind again? I hate it when that happens??

Yesterday, finishing up The Fellowship of the Ring, and my mind starts to wander over what I want to write next. I've been lost in The Void for just a bit with no inspiration whatsoever. So, I'm reading, thinking, and decide that I need to start editing an old project. I could add this, delete that, and suddenly another idea comes to me. I stop reading, grab the handy dandy pen/paper and begin to take notes. The seed of an idea has begun to sprout in my chaotic mind.

So, reading often inspires me, as does music, and so did going out with friends for dinner to a neat restaurant with a very ecclectic group of people. I thought, "hmmm, now this would be a very interesting place for characters to meet . . ." Yes, the restaurant will make it into my next project, as will quite a few of the wait staff as peripheral, if not major characters.

Inspiration also arrives in the shower, at stoplights, right as I'm about to fall to sleep, and in so many other inconvenient places.

Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

I have come to the conclusion that part of the trick is just constantly asking What If? and pursuing the line of thought. I have trouble coming up with ideas, and I think it's because my creativity is out of practice. So I need to start just freewriting or using my Creative Whack Pack (if I can find it) or something. :-)

On another, completely unrelated note, I found something that made me think of you -- figured you might get a kick out of it!

Unknown said...

I'm like you. "What if" scenarios and problems. I like solving the problems and coming up with something creative based on that.

Katie Anderson said...

Mostly it's just things I wish I could do. Something I want and can't get it, so it breeds an idea...

B.J. Anderson said...

Lol, all of the above and I hear you on the whole shower thing. Except that I usually talk to myself in the shower. Work out some dialogue that bobs around in my head all day. And cleaning house works well, too, though only as a last resort.

Jamie D. said...

God question, as usual!

Ideas pop into my head anywhere, anytime - they could be triggered by something I see, or a place I'm at. I've been known to start books just with a character based on someone I saw in a bar or restaurant. Or a scene that just pops into my head. My blog serial started with nothing more than a woman staring out the window at black umbrellas - it was a dark, rainy day outside, and I was wondering why everyone seemed to carry black umbrellas. I ran with it - started playing the "what if" game. I generally start like that, with nothing more than a scene and character (no real plot).

Just this afternoon, while making dog food, I finally got the main plot of that story, so I have a good idea how to finish it. No, it has nothing to do with dogs or dog food. :-)

Rachelle Christensen said...

I know it's crazy, but recently I've got some great ideas in the middle of the night while nursing my baby. I keep a pen and paper by my chair and scribble notes! ;)
I posted info about my new Ribbon Box on my blog, it’s so neat! If you’d like to see details, please stop by!

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