Thursday, January 28, 2010

On Inspiration for Works In Progress

On Nathan Bransford's blog, he asked the question: How Did You Come Up With the Idea for Your Work-in-Progress?

I found the post interesting since my ideas pop up in the strangest of places. Like Nathan said, inspiration happens without conscious thought. For me, its like each idea is a fireplace waiting to be lit. I simply need one idea, or a piece of kindling, to get the fire started. As sub-plots form the fire builds.

I briefly blogged about how I store and build ideas, but I never went into how they came about. For me, ideas just pop in. And 90% of them start with the lead character. A year ago, my witch matchmaker popped into my head while watching the Bravo! television show The Millionaire Matchmaker. As I watched I was like, I wonder what would happen if she was witch with powers and had to match warlocks who were superficial about witches. And thus my story was born. Of course at that point of inspiration I didn't have the objective, conflict, or what her ultimate confrontation would be, but most books need a main character you want to sympathize with and follow.

For the past book I finished, the process began again with a character but it was based on an article about OCD from a medical journal and a book by Ronda Thompson called Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel. How did these two ideas come together? Well, I read the blurb about Ronda's book, which has great reviews by the way and I'm dying to read it, and the spark came. What if I had an OCD werewolf? And that's where it began. More research, more thinking about my character and how they would react to the world around them. Then I had to take it to the next level and come up with the conflict they face. (And it has to be more than what happens if she has a panic attack.) The whole process to me is about asking those what if questions. Ask them again and again whenever you see something cool. Write it down! The idea may not be sellable right now for a particular market, but it may be in the future. When inspiration hits, store it away for another day.

I've never had the entire plot of a book appear out of thin air. I either have the lead character or I have an interesting scene that grows into a plot. If you're one of those people who has the whole thing fall into your lap, you are so lucky!


Kristi said...

Kind of like you, my inspiration comes from the wierdest places. Sometimes I have no idea where the idea came from (like my freakin clue where I got into alien abduction and a secondary character who was MIA from Vietnam, but it drove a whole plot + idea for series). Sometimes I see something concrete like an article or TV show that makes for a cool idea (have a few of those brewing...I need time!) BTW, I love National Geographic magazine. Talk about cool places for sci fi/fantasy world building...

Shawntelle Madison said...

Hmmm I may have to check out National Geographic to see what brews in there for my idea box.

BTW, I love aliens and can't wait to see more on the selves.

Cole Gibsen said...

Great post! I, too, love magazine to draw inspiration. One of my favs is Hi Fructose. It's a little out there, but the muse wants what the muse wants :)

Sarah Bromley said...

Great post, Shawny! I'm always amazed at the way stories come to you.