For Day 19 of Supposed Crimes 30-day Challenge: Where do you look for creative inspiration?
This is definitely an eternal question because honestly, my stories are inspired by such a variety of things. And almost never have I been inspired in the same way twice.
Perhaps if my inspiration sources were more consistent, I’d write more. But I’ve found inspiration in a mix of the following ways:
1. What If
My first novel, Turning Point, started as a “what if” coupled also with a dream scene and twisting one thing different. The “what if” was about self-awareness, or rather, the lack of it that comes from being raised in a way that something has never even been considered, so you have no idea you are experiencing it much less able to react “properly” to it. In the case of Brenna Lanigan she had never imagined herself capable of being attracted to a woman, so her frustration and anxiety about a new coworker is easily cast aside as professional jealousy. As she gets to know the woman, the jealousy dissolves, and care fills her instead. She’s utterly shocked when she first imagines kissing her.
2. Thematic prompt
Most of my shorter stories start as thematic prompts. A word like “blueberries” “zodiac” or “pride” spirals into a story situation like “Skylar’s Pride,” which was submitted to a novella series centered around zodiac signs. Working with several other authors on the 12 entry series, I chose Leo (my zodiac sign) and wrote a story about a cat-shifter taking care of her family.
3. Starting sentence
The starting sentence usually starts the draft, but doesn’t always stay as the first sentence, or even last to the final cut, but it might be a witty line of dialogue, or a singular description of a setting. Sometimes it just becomes the title like “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” submitted to a short story anthology Tell-Tale Hearts. The phrase gave me both the name of a character and a point of view for the story.
4. Twist one thing different
This is often how a lot of my fanfiction started. I also call this my “fix it” inspiration for stories. In my fanfic not just developing a relationship between characters who weren’t together onscreen, I would take a character decision (which I’d often viewed as out of character, or rather ‘plot-convenient’ and not character-driven) and do the opposite just to write out and follow where it goes.
5. Dream scene
A short story I wrote for a writing workshop started as a dream scene. I envisioned this older woman in a white cardigan sweater passing out pamphlets at a downtown bus stop, always walking past a man sitting on the pavement huddled in a worn green army jacket. Writing out that scene spilled out into a 6,000 word first draft of “Exercise of Faith,” which I read the next day in class and it stunned everyone, who could find almost nothing to nit pick about it. In fact it earned me an apology from the prof who had told me when I signed up that since I write “genre” fiction I probably wouldn’t be a very good “literary” writer.
My second story for that workshop, another dream-inspired one, titled “At Home with the Coopers” actually made him cry.