Authors’ ideas don’t just pop in their minds from nowhere. Something has to inspire them. It could be a person, a scene, an event, a song, anything. Many of these inspirations are quite ordinary. But sometimes, they can be pretty strange.
Question 137 – What was one of the most unusual writing inspirations that sparked a story idea?
A couple years ago, I wrote a rather large short story (short novella?) based on an idea of very boring vampires. Urban vampire fantasy is always so seduction/violence/whatever-based, and I just don’t like it…but I played several years of Vampire: The Masquerade with friends, so had ideas of other ways to write it. Which is how I ended up with a story about a vampire accountant who finds himself rescued from a vampire-on-vampire conflict over his just-destroyed clan’s wealth and resources by a glam Jewish vampire-hunter and her werewolf musician boyfriend. I really should edit and post it some day.
Er… I’m sorry, that’s classified. I suppose that my more recent inspirations have been songs, for the most part. Sometimes dreams. Sometimes I’m just driving down the road and hear the scenes in my head. Strange, I know. I used to tell myself stories as a child, before I could read. The Remnant is based in part on a childhood story over forty years old at this point. I was a strange and disturbed child.
Well, it’s not all that unusual, I suppose, but it’s been a long time coming, so I’m going with it. About twenty-five years ago, I ended up in a discussion about where god might come from while serving a customer a drink in the restaurant where I worked at the time. I’ve been mulling those ideas around ever since, and they served as inspiration for The Last God, which was just released this month.
I wrote a short-short based on an unusual search term from my blog.
This one is quite funny. I was on an international flight, tired and bored, when I looked across the aisle and saw a most peculiar man. He was dressed in a black suit that looked to be about a hundred years old, and the man himself looked to be at least a hundred and twenty. He wore a top hat and carried an old briefcase and a cane, and he had a long, hooked nose. He instantly became a character, and his briefcase became a method of smuggling magical artifacts. He was the beginning of a new novel, which is my current WIP.
I get a lot of writing inspiration from other peoples’ media (books, video games, movies, TV shows) and also from the insanity that is my dreams, all of which is fairly standard practice, I’d say. However, one of my current works in progress was inspired by a deep, relentless hatred for one of the upper-management bosses at my last job. I’m pretty sure literally everyone else on the crew hated this guy with a passion. Well one day he did something to me specifically that just enraged me beyond the telling of it, and the next thing I knew I was three chapters deep into my second zombie novel, purely because I wanted an excuse to have him torn limb from limb in prose form. A little psychotic? Perhaps. But aren’t all writers at least a little insane?
Still not uncommon? Fair enough. I once saw a design someone made of a fantasy dress with armor and raven feathers. It got me thinking of what kind of royalty or nobility would wear such a dress, which led to creating the culture of an entire fantasy civilization. All from a dress.
A home made postcard on a website. The picture was of six different locks of hair and on it was written: After they fall asleep, I cut the hair from the kids I babysit. All the people in the website’s forum were saying how creepy it was and I wanted to make it un-creepy, that it was more a cry of loneliness than anything else. It produced one of my strongest pieces, though also one of my saddest and maybe even most controversial. And people who critiqued it all said it was creepy, so that was a massive fail in that sense, though the story is really strong. Oh, didn’t I say the other week I couldn’t think of a writing failure? There you go. There’s one: I failed to un-creep the creepy. But it taught me a massive lesson in setting narrative tone. I still haven’t found anywhere that will publish it, even though it often gets serious consideration.
The postcard also inspired me to write a poem about a woman who was grieving the loss of a child, but that stays in the drawer along with the rest of my poems.
I get a lot of ideas from history and non-fiction, but the inspiration for Greyspace was pretty fun, unintentional and off-the-wall. I was in an online Science Fiction writers workshop/class with the full intent of revising and publishing an old story about the fun and consequences of relativistic travel and leap-frogging technology, but the instructor told us that he wanted to see three writing ideas. So, I added the idea I fully intended to develop, a second idea about nano-bots, and the third, which I just threw in there so I could submit it on time, was basically a joke about spaceships that couldn’t achieve Faster Than Light travel through scientific methods, but instead had to rely on a sorcerer to get them through Hyperspace. “What if instead of Scotty in the Engine Room, you had Merlin.” And that ended up being the idea we both liked the most.
I wrote a story about my childhood stuffed animal (which I still have, by the way). Though the little boy in story wasn’t me. Perhaps his imagination was. Barnaby and his boy were in the grocery store with Mom and got lost. While there they took a trip around the world.
I have a children’s book idea that began as a single sentence that my daughter said about two years ago. It has to do with dinosaurs, everyday life, and a child’s creative imagination. Maybe it’s not a very unusual inspiration, but