>> Friday, November 20, 2009
Project Savior (who isn't interested in the prize) gave me a great idea for a blog post, perhaps the kind of inspiration good for more than one: what inspires me.
You know it's interesting. One reason I don't read "how to write" books is that they seem to be largely concerned with "how to get ideas." How to get ideas? Are you kidding me? Why would be be interested in writing anything if you didn't have something to say?
I never run out of ideas (for fiction) because, for me, fiction is all about playing what if.
What's cool about what if is that anything can trigger it. It might be triggered, like "Backseat Driver" was by an off-hand comment, about the irritating cars that say things like "Your door is ajar." (As in "What if the car was really irritating and did stuff like criticize your driving?") It could be a term I like like "codeslinger" used by a programmer I know or the image of a programmer dealing with multiple screens and systems at one time. Combine that with a notion of growing organs in space (something I actually worked with in reality), and the premise all but lands in my lap.
It might be something in history that inspired me, which is how I wrote the epic poem "Memtaz Majal." History clearly influences much of my work - I love history - as do images that call to me. I just wrote about a temple inspired by the Taj Majal because, hey, it's beautiful. Sometimes, an image or a picture is all you want to convey, and the story just comes along afterwards.
But other thing can trigger it. Books or movies I like can trigger it. Sometimes, it's a book that's wonderful or that touches me. It might be characteristics that draw me that I feel compelled to showcase myself - usually in a completely different venue with a different history or characteristics - except retaining those particular features I was charmed by. For instance, enjoying a character who's slick, capable, and self-confident in an a post-apocolyptic world probably means that I'll enjoy playing with a self-confident, capable and sarcastic character in a sword and sorcery environment.
But, even more inspiring for me is a potential that just isn't used. A character or premise with potential that was squandered will often inspire me to write a story the way I think it should have been written. I'm not talking about rewriting that story; I'm talking about creating a story inspired but what the other story lacked. Believe me, that's different.
Sometimes, I'll be honest, I have no idea where something comes from. Many of the things that have brought a floundering story together (or made it far more entertaining) were things I effectively pulled from my, well, you know.
Some ideas simmer literally for years until the right inspirations hit to put them all together. Some come to me almost fully formed and it's all I can do to type them fast enough. But I try to capture the essence of those ideas so that I can always go back later.
It's got to be my story, or I shouldn't be telling it. But I seriously don't think that's been a problem. I know I love telling them and love playing what if, as tickled by the journey as anyone who reads it.