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Where Does Inspiration Come From?

This week’s question comes from Martha:

Where do you derive inspiration?

I think I get asked this particular question more than any other. I admit, even though I write, I still ask this question sometimes. Typically, the mark of a good book is when I end thinking “where did they get the idea for that?” 

I see a lot of articles and tips on how to manufacture inspiration. Many involve “people watching” at the mall or coffee shop. I still contend that this will freak people out more than it will help story ideas, but who knows. I have also heard of people reading newspaper articles and watching TV shows (or just reading books for that matter). When I first began writing, I mimicked songs, so I would suggest this particular method above all others. Some people devote their time to writing prompts and others join writer’s groups. Writers have to be careful on the latter, though. There is a thin line between finding inspiration from other writers and stealing their ideas, which is frowned upon. 

I found a blog on inspiration this morning, trying to figure out how I was going to answer this question. It lists dreams for one of the methods. I found that funny because it’s not like I can control my dreams…if I even remember them when I wake. But, I must admit that I have had dreams lead me to certain scenes. For example, in the novel I just finished about a family who can manipulate fate, I came up with the idea of a sisterly feud from a dream that was so vivid I woke up in a funky mood. Stephenie Meyer often says Twilight came from a dream of Edward talking with Bella in a field, which she later wrote into the book. So, while I can’t control my dreams, I think this is the strongest source on that list.

I actually hate when people try to come up with lists for writers to try. Typically my sources tend to be out of my control. The Curse of Atlantis came from a teacher proclaiming in history class that we will find the ruins of Atlantis in seven years (he was a little wacky, but some of the best teachers are). The Lord of Nightmares came on a dark night when I was feeding my rabbit and I looked up at a full moon, envisioning blood running over it. 

No matter where my stories come from, they tend to stay stagnant until I fall onto a question. The Curse of Atlantis was “What if we did find Atlantis?” which turned into “What if they existed and had a curse?” The Lord of Nightmares was “What if supernatural beings were the reason behind horrible crimes on the news?” The sequel to the curse is “What happened to Zeus after the war?” My ideas actually don’t start to generate until the question is defined. Where the question comes from changes, but it normally doesn’t happen until I am almost done with the book I’m currently writing—I am not one of those writers who can write multiple books at a time. This, of course, leaves me with the fear that the ideas will suddenly stop coming. Then, maybe, I will go to the lists of manufactured inspiration. 

I’m not sure where inspiration comes from while a story progresses. My method of writing involves talking out the plot with my mother (because she tolerates my crazy questions and synopsis, even giving ideas of her own). Besides that, I listen to my muse and let the story run. 

In short, where does my inspiration come from? I like to think it comes from God whispering in my ear.

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