One of the many things that we writers love to do is read. Reading can inspire us to write what we have been thinking, previously or currently been working on, or inspire us to begin writing. I know that as a kid, I never really had a desire to write until I started reading. I had been thinking about this while reading an interview about Annette Simon. In the beginning of the interview Annette was asked What books are on your nightstand?, What was your favorite book as a child?, As a teen?, As an adult? I thought it was so interesting that the person interviewing took advantage of realizing how important reading is to current authors and wanted to explore how Annette read. I feel that I definitely read more than I currently write but what I read definitely inspires me to want to write more. So many books have given way to ideas and have been mulled over many times and could turn into something when I actually have the time to sit down and write.
Have you ever heard the phrase “Write what you know”? Many of us have and have used this as a guideline for our writing. Ellen Taliaferro states in this article “The stories you hear and observe each day weave the rich fabric of your work and personal life.” We live stories every day and with that comes inspiration and imagination. Socrates once said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We are constantly discovering new things everyday. By using our stories that we observe and live through as our guiding light, we form our own foundations to be inspired by everything around us.
This article that I found was written by a Doctor. She outlines the best ways to write your story and draw from your life experiences. Every step is your decision and as you write your journey, the path behind you is laid out neatly.
As I was going through different articles about writers’ inspirations, I stumbled upon this Buzzfeed that really interested me. It is a collection of quotes by different writers to help inspire aspiring writers. While reading, a few stuck out to me.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in the retrospect” – Anais Nin
I don’t really know any of her work, but to me this shows the beauty of what writing can be. When writing, a lot is based off of our life experiences. I find this so fascinating because we can reminisce about our lives and experiences through our writing, and we can also write to change and dream about what we wanted the results to become.
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” – W. Somerset Maugham
This quote stuck to me because of the immense value behind it. What I appreciated most was that it shows no matter how much schooling or practicing you go through, writing a novel is not something we can just learn how to do. Yes, we can learn how to better write to certain audiences If there were a set way, everyone would write and no one would ever get stuck because there would be instructions on how to get around it.
Please comment thoughts on the other quotes! Hope this inspires everyone to write a little more!
I came across this article on writing inspiration that I thought was interesting. The author, Leo Babauta, put together a list of things, places, and activities a writer can do to gain inspiration. I thought it was funny that he states “it can come from the unlikeliest sources.” Its true that you never know what is going to inspire you. Writers inspiration is a key part to the writing process. I agree with Babauta that, “Every writer needs to find inspiration in order to produce inspired writing.”
A few that I found to be quite helpful were free writing, the writing journal, and people watching. You can sometimes get your best inspiration from your surroundings.
Allison Brennan is known for her chilling and often “very gruesome” (Pitner) stories. Her novels of romantic suspense border more along the thriller aspect of her stories than the romance. But as she puts it: “There is always a happy ending and my hero and heroine deserve to have their own happily ever after-especially considering what they’ve gone through physically and emotionally just to survive the book” (Pitner).
These stories of murder and intrigue are often based in her local area of Central California, providing her with the inspiration for her novel’s surroundings. But as scary and bone-chilling as her novels are, Brennan admits she is “more scared reading the news” (Pitner). In fact, articles in her local newspaper have even inspired her to write some of her stories. Her first published novel, The Prey, was inspired by an article she had read, where a local man had killed his entire family and then himself (Pitner). “All the neighbors were shocked, no one could believe that he could do something so horrific. I wondered, ‘What if one of his children survived?’ She became my heroine, Rowan Smith” (Brennan). Brennan also claims her novel, Speak No Evil, was inspired by Taylor Biehl, “who had an anonymous, sexually explicit blog and died at the hands of her one-time, much older boyfriend” (Brennan). The possibility for the events to be real, mixed with the shock value of such tragedies, makes the story that much more compelling. The appeal is in the reality, and borders on the precipice of the time-old duality of good versus evil.
Writers receive inspiration from a myriad of sources. One of the most common sources is through reading other author’s works, particularly classics. Stories like Cinderella, have been remade into over fifteen hundred different versions. For historical novelists, especially those who focus on the Regency era, Jane Austen is a popular outlet for inspiration. Since Jane Austen is also one of my favorite writers, I was interested to know how her novels played a hand in Julia Quinn’s novel, The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy.
Quinn writes: “Like most authors writing in my time period, I worship at the altar of Jane Austen, and while I do not credit her with the birth of the modern romance novel […], she must be acknowledged as the genre’s most vital and influential ancestor.” For many writers who base their fiction in historical venues, the best way to understand the life and expectations of their characters is to draw information from those who lived it. Jane Austen and her novels capture these expectations of propriety, marriage and family logistics. By referring to Austen’s works, as Quinn explains, it helps set the tone for the entire story.
Another great aspect of Austen’s story, and how it relates to inspiration for many modern-day authors, is her revolutionary ideas about woman and marriage. “She was writing about smart women in a time that did not celebrate smart women. She was writing about love and happy endings in a time that viewed marriage- in her social class, at least- as more of a business contract than a bond of love” (Quinn). These values are especially relatable in today’s world, with “strong females” and “true love” heading the top ten most-read romance tropes. Its ability to span across two centuries of history and still be relatable to readers is a testament to its progress. It makes finding the connection between modern-day readers and history that much easier.
The Silence of the Lambs is one of my all-time favorite films. The story, the characters, the utter horror, Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s eerily composed creepiness. The movie won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1992, spawning hundred of true-crime headlines such as “Real Life Hannibal Lecter Kills Again.” But who was the man who inspired the sophisticated, genteel cannibal?
In the 25th Anniversary re-release of the best-selling book behind the movie, author Thomas Harris tells of a man, identified only as Dr. Salazar, whose creepy mannerisms and obsession with the human mind inspired the character of Hannibal Lecter. I won’t spoil it for you, but you can read more about this terrifying figure here: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/silence-lambs-thomas-harris-opens-5374350.
Harris himself discovered the doctor while at a prison to interview one of the inmates. For those who have seen the movie or read the book, it really is fascinating to see where reality blends into fantasy.
A couple of years ago, I caved and bought a copy of The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. The story centers around a young girl named Liesl, and her life in Germany at the height of Hitler’s reign of terror. The story takes us through the girl’s adolescence and the effect the war has on her relationships, but most uniquely, the story is narrated by Death himself.
It’s an interesting, devastating take on one of the darkest times in world history, and I found myself researching the author to find out what compelled him to write something like this. In this interview with The Guardian, author Marcus Zusak offers a look at his own childhood and the things that inspired his work.
Here is a brief sampling of the Q&A session, which you can check out in its entirety by clicking this link: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/mar/28/whyiwrite.
When you were growing up did you have books in your home?
I think we had just about every Doctor Seuss book available in Australia. My parents couldn’t speak English when they came here, so it was important to them that their children at least had the chance to be good communicators, as well as good readers and writers of English. A lot of my childhood memories seem to have books in the picture.
What made you want to write when you were starting out?
I wanted to be a writer when I was 16 and read the right books for me. It was that feeling of turning pages and not even realising it – I was so immersed in the world of each book. That was when I looked up from the pages and thought, “That’s what I want to do with my life.” I decided that I was going to be a writer and that nothing was going to stop me.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Don’t be afraid to fail. I fail every day. I failed thousands of times writing The Book Thief, and that book now means everything to me. Of course, I have many doubts and fears about that book, too, but some of what I feel are the best ideas in it came to me when I was working away for apparently no result. Failure has been my best friend as a writer. It tests you, to see if you have what it takes to see it through.
One of my favorite authors growing up was Gregory Maguire. While he publishes books for both children and adults, I have only ever had exposure to his adult fiction, which is racy (to say the least) and brilliant (at minimum). Incidentally, the only reason I picked up his work in the first place is because I was a silly, theatre-obsessed pre-teen who loved (surprise, surprise) the new musical, Wicked, which is based on Maguire’s n ovel of the same name. This story sort of serves as the prequel to The Wizard of Oz, but it is much more than a mere fantasy. Maguire discusses animal rights, politics, and tough adult subjects – the juxtaposition of fantasy and reality is nothing short of genius.
But with books like this, you have to wonder how the author draws inspiration for the “tough stuff” from the original fairytale. There is hardly an undertone of animal cruelty in the original tale of Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West, but I suppose we do wonder how the green monster manages to enslave her poor little monkey servant.
Maguire asserts what many writers often forget: “One can’t rely on inspiration.”
It’s a simplistic thought, and maybe a bit over-simplified at that, but he’s right. If we always wait for inspiration to come, we will sometimes wait for a very long time. As Maguire points out, trying to write sometimes feels like picking up a weak radio signal. You know there’s something out there – an idea, a concept, maybe even a character arc – but it’s not completely accessible yet. Sometimes, the signal is very clear, and you have a sense of direction. Other times, fiction is a lost cause.
Whatever the case may be, we must learn how to appreciate the times when inspiration is the strongest, but also how to power through the moments in our journey as writers when inspiration does not come. If we want to be prolific, successful, and seasoned, this is an absolute necessity.
I think one of the most interesting things about authors is how many various things can spark the inspiration for a new book or story. Jack London, author of Call of the Wild and White Fang, once stated, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club”.
I’ve really enjoyed looking at various author’s “clubs”. A few of my favorites were:
Reading: The most avid readers make some of the best authors. I used to write a lot of poetry, and I always found that I was the most inspired after I had read works written by some of my favorite poets. Many successful authors heavily promote reading to students, because it can lead to better writing skills.
Nature: We live in a truly beautiful world. Even for those not looking to write anything, stepping outside can be very inspiring. (I’m currently living in Jackson, Wyoming, right underneath the Grand Tetons. I experience this inspiration almost every morning.) Even for writers who don’t focus on the great outdoors, this is a great source of inspiration.
People Watching: I had never considered this as a source of inspiration. But I can definitely see how this could help to develop some of the best characters for fiction writers.