I’ve been thinking a lot about my inspiration for the stories that I have written and the stories to come. It’s surprising how many of my ideas come from random and unexpected sources and experiences. Like severed fingers.
The most recent came from a dream. Actually, I have weird and wonderful dreams and I get quite a lot of inspiration from the wacky thinks I dream of at night. For this reason I always have a notepad on my bedside table. I do use my iPhone, but the words I type in my groggy 2am induced dream haze are always jumbled and I can never understand what I meant in the morning. At least with a note pad and pen I am only deciphering messy handwriting and not Apple’s attempt to make me a better speller.
Anyway. So I had this dream about drinking a glass of water, which had a severed finger floating in it. It was a very vivid dream, right down to the layout of the house I was in. When I started writing that book, the first chapter I wrote was based on this dream, it’s been reworked as I’ve gone along but the essence is there. What’s strange though, is that while I was researching the period of house that was in my dream I found a replica online.
The Eastbury Manor House in Barking, Essex, UK is so similar to the house I dreamt about it was scary. I had never given much thought to out of body experiences before but this was a whopper of a coincidence! I have just finished writing the first draft of this manuscript, it turned out to be less gothic horror and more urban fantasy. But that’s okay.
Another strange and wonderful source of inspiration was for one of my short stories – Horlock’s Magnificent Gypsy Circus. I wrote this coming of age piece about a girl growing up in the circus. I got that little idea from walking past a guy who had scales tattooed on his arm. I wrote another short story about the life of a homeless man living at Central Station, Sydney. I saw this old man lying on the footpath, not bothering anyone, he was in a world of his own, looking up at the sky just watching the world go by and I thought ‘What’s his story?’ I unfortunately, see a lot of people that are homeless, or addicts or just down on their luck around the city, but there was something about this man that struck me. I can’t really tell you what it was, but something hit me, compelling me to write about him.
I recently wrote a short story in a rage. I had just had a ‘debate’ with someone who had particular views on same sex relationships. I believe that love is love and as long as you’re not hurting anyone, you should be free to love and marry whoever you like. I understand that not everyone believes that, but I don’t have to respect it. So I took all of that rage and channeled it into a piece of writing. I hope it does justice to what I was feeling, and I have used that little piece as the basis for a novel. It was challenging writing that story, because although I got great inspiration from this small minded person I also struggled with the material. I wanted to scream and shout at this person but I wasn’t in the right place to do it. So I told them what I thought and wrote down everything foul that I wanted to say to this person, from a character perspective.
I write a lot of short stories. I think they help me when I’m writing a bigger work. Sometimes I flick back and see what I have written and that prompts a new story or I can incorporate that 2000 or so words into something else. I suppose this comes back to working hard rather than waiting for inspiration. Because sometimes you aren’t in the right frame of mind when inspiration hits you with an idea. Like giving birth or at a funeral. You can’t really stop everything and beat out a few thousand words. Even just a really shit day can do my head in and I don’t feel like working on a bigger project. So I write something small, something that can act as a taster later on.
I actually get a lot of ideas when I’m commuting on the train. For some reason, people think that a sealed tin can packed with 200 other people is a fantastic time to have a fight, or have phone sex.
Just because the rest of the carriage can’t hear what the person on the other end of the phone is saying, it doesn’t mean that we can’t hear you! I’m not complaining though because it is a fantastic source of ideas. Last week I listened (shamelessly) as a young woman, no more than 20 years old, told her boyfriend that if went to the movies with his mates that he didn’t love her and they were over. She was daring him to go. Then she was begging him not too. If I hadn’t heard it, I don’t think I would have believed it. I wanted to thank the poor girl as I got off the train, but she looked so distraught.
My point is that I’ve been lucky that inspiration strikes me a lot. They aren’t always good ideas but sometimes they are great, it depends on what you do with them as a writer to make them a story worth reading. I could have ignored all of these little prompts but hard work and imagination turns them into something worth reading.
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