Wednesday, January 5, 2011


            On top of presenting another, shorter description of a character this morning (well, I guess this afternoon, now), I decided today would be a good day to think about another vital part of writing, one that is very dear to me: inspiration.
            For me, inspiration comes in a variety of ways.  Most are, I think, pretty typical: artwork, music, movies, nature, personal experience, reading others’ work.  I was told in classes growing up that “readers make better writers.”  This is definitely true for me.  One of the things I often did was attempt to mimic published authors’ styles—everything from structure to plot to dialogue technique.  I was also told that “writers are made, not born.”  That I believe is dead wrong.  Sure, you can train people to write correctly, and many can be taught to write extremely well, but the passion in my case has always been there.  I didn’t discover it at school when I learned to spell, or to write correct sentences.  It’s always been as natural to me as breathing.
            I do have a few sources of inspiration that are probably not as common as the rest.  Sometimes all it takes is for someone to say or do something—even a single word spoken in a certain way, or a narrowly-avoided mishap, or an expression or stance.  Observation comes in handy to notice those little things others may miss and allow me to find them so delightful I have to use them.  Sometimes it’s found in a particular piece of jewelry, or a good meal, or some random thought.
            For example, when my friends and I were putting together our 100word list, a word that came up immediately was “chocolate.”  If I remember right, its suggestion happened due to the fact that one of us was eating a form of chocolate and the other didn’t have any (and was bemoaning the fact).  We dared each other to make that word our first story in the set of 100 because it was such a humorous idea.
            There is a scene in my “blind fantasy” story about a voluntarily blind warrior named Kairis and a strange young woman, Ryah, he saves from an enemy clan that was inspired by the agonizing work I did for an employer back when the local one moved to a new location.  We worked 12+ hours seven days a week for about a month or two because the district manager wanted to beat his store-opening time record.  It was exhausting, demoralizing, and miserable.  What came to mind was the journey Kairis and Ryah had to make to escape the enemy clan—they could not rest, and it was taking a physical toll, much like my real job was doing to me.  Ironically, this was the year I had vowed to write every day, and because of the move I couldn’t.  At least I got something good written out of it.
            I’ve written good food into stories, and jewelry.  In Brink, my National Novel Writing Month entry, I even got inspiration from the horses I work with, three friends, and those friends’ general interactions and conversations.  While the interactions and conversations I observed didn’t make it into the story, those of similar structure did.
            For some of my fantasy work, I’ve used my collection of Lego Castles to set up scenes or battle movements to get a feel for things.  This is probably my oddest source of inspiration.
            Oftentimes, different characters will talk to me about their stories depending on what music I’ve got playing, or what movie or video game I’ve been playing, or what book I’ve been reading.  Sometimes the scenes they tell me aren’t remotely similar to those things, but came to mind because of them.
            For example, Kett has affinity for strong military or war themed music, such as the score for The Rock, Blow me Away by Breaking Benjamin off the Halo 2 soundtrack, Crysis and Crysis Warhead.  On the other hand, Shail, one of my fantasy characters who becomes a centaur and who can control earth-magic, likes gentler themes such as Optimus from Transformers and The Shire from The Fellowship of the Ring.
            I’ve noticed other writers connect their characters to certain music as well.  I stumbled across an online comic once that had bios for all the main characters, along with a “theme song” or “playlist” that each would probably listen to if they were real.  Another online comic actually had put together a musical score for readers to listen to, music the writer/artist had used as inspiration for the pages.
            Personal themes of mine stem mostly from classical music or movie and video game scores.  Very little of the music I listen to has vocals.  Three pieces I’ve been inspired by and have loved all my life are Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird, Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Overture, and Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.  Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite also have passionate places.  Not to mention newer stuff like Celldweller’s Soundtrack for the Voices in my Head, scores like Stardust, Lord of the Rings, Clash of the Titans, Halo, artists such as Yanni, George Winston, and David Lanz, and singers like Nickleback, Michelle Tumes, Enya, and Michael W. Smith.
            I won’t go into detail about the movies and books that inspire me as well here…maybe another time.

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