I consider myself a writer-in-training and love to talk about it with like-minded people, but a question asked in a recent conversation had me floundering for a specific answer.
With those who know me, expressing my desire to be a writer came as no surprise and I never had to explain why. They have supported me all the way, even if they don’t understand where the desire comes from or why the urge to express myself with the power and magic of words is something that I cannot ignore. No one has ever pinned me down and asked where my motivation comes from until now.
When queried by a person I’d just met as to my plans for the rest of my day, I told him I was going home to write.
‘You write?’ he asked as if I’d just announced I was directing the latest block busting movie in my back yard.
‘What do you write about?’ he said in response to my very excited nod.
‘Oh,’ I said, my grin threatening to dissect my delighted features, ‘all sorts of things. Paranormal is my favourite, but also contemporary, fantasy, a bit of sci fi – whatever comes to mind, really.’
Then he hit me with a question that required an unavoidable answer, one that writers everywhere have heard time and time again.
‘So, where do you get your ideas from?’
I’m not sure how long it took my mouth to close. To see him staring at me as if I was about to divulge any number of wondrous secrets sent my heart racing and my thoughts soaring. What should I say? How would I explain what was going on in my head without sounding like I was a major contender for one of those stark, tight-fitting jackets known to make an appearance in the odd Jack Nicholson movie?
Because I love to read and want to write stories that recreate that joy in others might sound too clichéd. Sometimes I’d get to the end of a book or a great movie and feel flat because it ended when really I wanted that feeling to go on forever. Is it so bad that I want to alleviate that ‘depression’ by replacing it with my next ‘high’? Would I sound conceited if I said that sometimes I’d be disappointed by the ending of a book and wanted to rewrite it to a way that I found more satisfying?
Then there are the voices in my head. (Are you reaching for that jacket yet?) Characters speak to me ALL THE TIME! Each feels that their story is the most important. Each thinks that their voice is the loudest. And each believes that if I don’t write something about them this instant, that they will be doomed to resonate inside me forever. Sometimes I think they’re on to something. And anyway – who needs sleep, right?
I can find inspiration anywhere. An overheard conversation. (No, I’m not eavesdropping, honest!) The tone and pitch of a voice. (I love accents.) Books and movies never fail to spark an idea regardless of whether I did or didn’t enjoy them. (I’m not alone on that one, right.) Dreams and nightmares make excellent fodder for stories and sometimes an idea just pops into my head.
Something as simple as the weather can inspire me. I find something magical about rainy days. I feel cocooned in my writing space, warm and dry, but really, I’m in some dark, mysterious world and I’m cold, wet, miserable and about to face a life changing moment. But then, the wildest of things can happen on the most beautiful, sunny day where life seems perfect and life couldn’t possibly go wrong. (Or could it?)
Life experience is invaluable. I can draw on my past, take note of how others react in similar situations, and take on board those who never really are what they appear to be. People don’t always act in the way you expect. The things that drive people to act the way they do can be amazing, terrifying, devastating and humbling. Who knows how their past has shaped their present and their future?
Then there’s the wonderful game of ‘What if?’
What if the piece of junk jewellery Katy found in her grandmother’s chest is really a talisman that protects the wearer from evil? What if it is cursed, dooming all who the wearer loves to die? What if, with a simple twist of the clasp, the jewellery could transport Katy to another world, another time, another place? What if the jewellery somehow opened and inside was an important message and time was running out for the receiver. What if it was already too late? And what if the jewellery was nothing more than a piece of junk but inspired Katy to unimaginable greatness? So many wonderful possibilities and yet I’ve named but a few. And of course ‘what if’ simply must be followed by ‘why’ to which a writer must provide the answer.
As for that poor man and his so innocently asked question – I managed to control myself enough to give him a condensed answer.
My ideas come from the world around me. So many wondrous people, places and things inspire me and my head is just bursting to share them.
He appeared satisfied with my reply and I went home to write. Only now, I have a new idea to contend with as I envision my version of how the rest of his day went. He did have a rather nice voice and I’m sure I could work that into a story. ;)