Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Inspiration, Concentration, Dedication

PictureThis via morgueFile
As a writer, where do you get your ideas? Let’s talk about inspiration. What inspires you enough to make you concentrate on your story line and dedicate the time and energy required to write your book? We’re told stories are everywhere, but is this so? Does everyone really have a story to tell?

Yes and yes…sort of. Stories are definitely everywhere: homes, schools, the workplace, prisons, homeless shelters, nature, and the list goes on. People who have lived long enough to articulate their stories might open up and share their experiences; then again, they might not. In either case, a story unfolds—revelation or speculation.

Because I have no way of knowing what inspires you, I will tell you what inspires me. Then you can share what drives you to the keyboard or writing pad to birth your stories.

News articles and reports are great grist for my writing mill. Whether the headlines shout of wars, terrorist attacks, beheadings, shootings, natural disasters, kidnappings, young children left to die in overheated cars, abuse and killing of helpless animals, or some obscure human interest story that merits only a passing comment from the media, I find in each something about the human condition that begs for expression from my writer within.

lespowell via morgueFile

People-watching also makes my fingers itch to translate my observations and imaginings into a gripping tale. Whether or not those in my line of vision say a single word, their body language speaks volumes about who they are and what’s happening in their lives. From there it’s a short journey to my story line.

Others’ books have driven me to write. Whether it’s because the author’s story goes in a direction I don’t like or due to my presumptuous—and possibly unfounded—notion that I could write it better, I have on more than one occasion put down another writer’s novel and begun to pound out my own. I’ve also been inspired by a great book to see if I could create a story to match the quality of the one I’m reading.

earl53 via morgueFile

More inspirations include sunsets, full moon on a winter night, summer storms, a lake in the North Country, falling snow, stray dogs, troubled lovers, autumn colors, and another list takes shape. Laughing children and well-seasoned seniors challenge me to invite them onto my pages. Family problems touch the hearts of many, and I’m no exception. Nearly all my stories address some aspect of family dynamics.

So what inspires you? Does inspiration come first when you write, or do you begin with a setting and/or a cast of characters? How do you determine the most effective way to weave your inspiration into the fabric of your story?

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at www.denvereditor.com.


  1. My idea for a YA series took several years to ferment. I wanted to do something about goddesses. Then I read Guns, Germs, and Steel. I've always been curious about "first times": the first time someone spoke, wrote, or cooked. Then I listed to lectures by Joseph Campbell. Behind every myth and folklore story there is usually some kernel of truth. That made we wonder what was the kernel of truth within Greek mythology? What if real people inspired the stories? Who were they? What was their world like? I have a file of story ideas: some are from dreams, some are from real life events, some seem to come from nowhere. So, I would say it comes from multiple sources being churned together.

  2. The origin of mythology intrigues me, too. I remember reading that it is thought by some researchers to be based on fact, perhaps even more than a kernel.

  3. I'm a "What if?" person. What if there was a character who... What if a character wound up... What if this happened to change your life? Sometimes I hear or read something that makes me take the "what if" to the next level. I read about a guy who got out of prison on a technicality. What if he was framed for a crime exactly like the one that put him in prison in the first place? Hence, Murder Deja Vu. A world full of problems is an endless source of material. Unfortunately.

    1. I love those "what ifs," too, Polly. Who knows...maybe on occasion our solutions for our characters might actually help someone in real life. :-)

  4. I remember taking a class in humanities in which we were asked to view various pieces of art and write a short story. I thought that was a great visual prompt. Not that any of those short pieces ever made it into print, but that is such a great writing exercise.

    For the work I do get published, mostly my mysteries, I get the ideas from real life and inspiration from some of the mystery writers whose work I love to read.

    1. I like the way you separate "ideas" and "inspiration" because they are not the same thing--even though they are mutually beneficial. For maximum advantage, both need to be present.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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