Some people love to chase. While I am not a big fan of chasing when it comes to dating, chasing inspiration is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer.
I love it when inspiration comes by itself. When I have a magical A-HA! moment. When an idea comes by itself and not when I was brainstorming, forcing my brain to fix a plot problem. When it comes unannounced, unexpected and gives me the rush to start writing it right there and then. And even if I can’t start at that moment, I am smart enough to take enough notes so that I don’t let it get away.
Except this rarely happens to me. Especially when writing fiction. An exciting, entertaining idea doesn’t just come on its own. An idea- typically an ordinary one- comes when I think about what I want to write about. I know I want this ordinary situation or character in some way, but I don’t want it to be ordinary. No, I am not contradicting myself.
OK, think about it like this. You want to write about cancer. But you don’t want to go down the old, depressive, tragic, “what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this route”. Or the “I’m-already-dead-might-as-well-go-all-self-destructive route”.
Instead, your character decides to make the most of her life right there and then. She finds out humorous, practical and innovative ways to deal with her son and husband. She doesn’t care that much about saving money any more. She buys a red convertible – which will go to her son after he reaches a certain age. See how she lived for the moment, without screwing up anyone’s future? She also has workers build the swimming pool she always wanted. Impulsive? Yes. Irrational? No. If anything, this will increase the value of the house.
Did the plot sound familiar? Well, it is the plot of the comedy/drama show The Big C starring Laura Linney. Before watching it, I remember thinking “Humor in cancer? Right. Like that could happen!” But it has, and the show turned out to be really good and unique.
Isn’t this more interesting than typical ways of grieving?
This happens to me a lot. I respond to my ideas by changing the core of the story, changing the sex of the main character, shaking stereotypes, or adding some unexpected traits to the archetype. Victoria Connelly did a wonderful example of this by creating a writer character in her book “A Weekend with Mr. Darcy”.
In the book, the main character is Lorna Warwick – a modern day, famous author of best-selling Jane Austen style novels. But of course Lorna is the pen name and the writer is actually a guy. And he is not gay or a nerd. He is a masculine, heterosexual, sexy guy who hides behind the persona – and does adrenaline-inducing outdoor activities with his friends while he is not writing. And best of all…his interest in Jane Austen, and his novels, is genuine.
A Weekend with Mr. Darcy may not be the best book ever-created but I really liked the male protagonist being a guy’s guy and loving Jane Austen, and her characters, as much as the next gal. And guess what? Connelly has been published many times.
Where did the inspiration for this article come from? It came while I was reading this Writer’s Digest article about how not to write a novel, and one of the best ways to do it was to wait for inspiration. I am trying to write a novel and yet after all this time creating stories, I still tend to make the mistake of waiting for inspiration. The article stroke a chord and I wrote about it.
So an article about writing inspiration came when I was studying writing (so I could write my novel better and I could get to know the magazine enough to pitch great queries.) Not when I was doing something totally unrelated, or not doing anything at all.
While inspiration might occasionally do the favor of dropping by out of thin air, it mostly loves to be chased with vengeance. So you can just start writing about anything in anyway…and spice things up later.
If there is something that bothers me than writing something ordinary…it is not writing at all. The name of this blog is not a coincidence. I truly am addicted to writing. And while ordinary can be changed into extraordinary through trial and error, extraordinary isn’t born from nothing.