Where does your inspiration come from?

Is it spontaneous or can we find ways to create it?

For years I thought I was a good writer but couldn’t come up with inspiration for fiction. I could write newsletters and educational content. I often wrote poetry inspired by a broken heart, a new love, or a donut shop closing after 30 years. But the idea of writing a novel with interesting characters, facing a villain or other obstacles, and all the essential components of a good read were beyond me for decades. 

I’d read a thousand books and over and over I told myself I could write something even better than them. But the ideas never materialized or they sounded like they’d been done too many times. Sometimes they were too close to my reality which wasn’t that entertaining or exciting.

Then one night Poppy arrived in my half-awake brain. She was a whole person. Feisty, funny, and scared of commitment. Basically, ripe for her own story. And she wouldn’t leave me alone. So, I started writing.

With lots of false starts and detours a story developed. It took years. I took workshops and seminars. I went to conferences. I read books about writing. There’s a bookshelf in my office to prove it.

I needed more inspiration plus the craft knowledge of how to create a great story. My antagonist was AWOL and that left a big hole in my story. I realized I have trouble finding inspiration for the bad guys and much preferred a villain who has good qualities but has gone astray.

It took years for me to accept I needed a villain or two. Then I found the inspiration that satisfied my need for a whole person with a credible back story plus one who would make my protagonist change or die.

This is the long way of telling you we don’t just sit around waiting for inspiration. People who are productive find ways to generate it. Writers, entrepreneurs, and parents… we all need inspiration to face our challenges. And that comes from many places and people. Here’s my starter list:

People who:
    Want something so much they’re willing to do anything to get it.
    Are jealous of anyone who has something they want.
    Feel like outsiders or resent the establishment.
    Are greedy for money, power, prestige, and acceptance.
    Have secrets they believe they have to keep.
    Are motivated by fear.
    Have been abused or damaged by people they trusted.
This just gets me started. In my first novel, “On the Cusp” Poppy developed into a young woman with secrets she had carried for years. Then I brought in immigrants who wanted to become a part of their new society but were led astray by circumstances or lack of good judgment. I realized women are good antagonists since they are often without agency to create the life they want, so they use manipulation, seduction, or other intriguing ways to achieve their goals.

Once you have an inspiration for your character, it’s time to flesh out the details… secrets, fears, back story… but that’s for another day.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about finding the inspiration you need for your characters or plot. Please leave your comments on my Getting Traction Facebook page.