November 14, 2016

Finding Inspiration

I have been having a crazy busy November so far, and part of that is NaNoWriMo. I was pretty lucky this year that I had an (amazing) idea I really wanted to write about. I can't imagine trying to tackle something as big as writing 50K words in a month without having a plan ahead of time. Although I very much consider myself a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants, I still start each of my stories with a fleshed out idea, protagonist, and central conflict.

Although a flash of inspiration will occasionally hit like a strike of lightning, more often than not, I find myself looking for the next cool thing to write about. So get inspired with me as I go through some things that I've found helpful in coming up with new story ideas.

Consume Lots of Media
When I'm lounging in my sweats with a hot cup of coffee watching a new show on Netflix, you better believe it's for research. Part of crafting great stories comes from consuming existing great stories. More so than learning what makes a story good and engaging, actively reading, playing video games, and watching TV have also given me ideas of story threads that I would like to play out in a different way. My debut novel was inspired by a TV show with people trapped in a static society along with the fallout games (among other things I've absorbed from other media). So don't feel entirely guilty for spending your entire Sunday playing The Witcher 3.

Embrace Something Silly
I love vampires, which is embarrassing to admit now that the world has been oversaturated by them. I've read all of Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries and Dracula countless times. When I wanted to write something light-hearted, my first thought was a vampire novel. My second thought was unicorns. Tossing around just a single idea and researching the mythology really sparked some creative plotting.

Read Some Writing Prompts
I've heard both sides of this one: Writing prompts tend to be overly specific and don't lend to long works like novels, and writing prompts are your best friend. I fall somewhere in the middle. Yes, a lot of prompts can be a little kooky, but they shouldn't be the driving force for the entire story.  Let a prompt lead to a scene, then think about how that scene could fit into a larger more complex narrative

Find a New Twist on Something Cliche
Even if this doesn't lead to your next story idea, it's still a lot of fun and a great exercise to stretch your creative muscle. Sometimes I'll think about something that has been done over and over again and try to come up with my own spin. For example, I'm just not the biggest fan of aliens even though they are a staple in science fiction. So instead of devising a plot about space wars, interplanetary politics, or first contact, what else could I do with aliens? What does humanity look like from their perspective? Do they even want to make contact with us? So many questions, and many more answers.

What's the Worst That Could Happen
No, seriously, what is? Take a character in a mundane situation and throw everything at them including the kitchen sink. Bob is backpacking through the mountains? Have him lose his backpack. Then, send a blizzard. And a yeti. Oh, and the rescue crew turned into zombies. This is sort of an extreme example, but sometimes it's fun to put a new innocent character into an impossible situation and see if they can climb their way out.

Where do you find inspiration?

Until next time, I'm busy throwing the kitchen sink at my NaNo protagonist, so I'll see you again in another 5K words or so.

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