Most of the time when people ask authors – and even me, a newbie – where they get their ideas and inspiration, the answers are always stock phrases, like, “I go for a walk and the ideas just come to me,” or, “I don’t know. They’re floating out in the ether until they end up in my head.”
These answers aren’t very helpful to budding authors who generally view the process of storytelling as some mythological, magical experience. (However, the tip about walking is great to help the writing brain!)
So, I thought I would write about what inspires me to write the often eccentric, undead-filled stories that I’ve been publishing as of late. Keep in mind that everyone is inspired in different ways, so some of these techniques may work for you, and the ones that don’t can just be discarded.
The first step for me becoming inspired is to see or read a story that resonates with me deeply. What makes me hooked on something? Currently I am hooked on horror. To take that a step further, I am hooked and fascinated by supernatural horror.
What fascinates me about that particular genre?
I now go through and mentally come up with reasons for my addiction to the genre.
- I’m interested in the unknown and what happens to people when they refuse to pass on after death.
- I’m interested in the struggles of a family dealing with an entity that they cannot see.
- I’m interested in the process of figuring out how to battle an invisible foe – if they can be battled at all.
- What do you do when your house is no longer your home?
- Where do these ghosts come from?
- What is the history of an old home? How many life stories has it been witness to?
The list can go on for a while, but it’s great to get those hooks into the front of my creative brain because those are exactly the hooks that I’m going to be using in my piece of fiction. Hopefully these hooks will also captivate a new reader.
What’s also exciting about the horror genre is that I am free to create anything that I want. What terrifies me? As I said, I am afraid of the unknown. This allows me to write plots where unexpected and often times unexplainable phenomena will happen to my characters and they will react in ways that are human and realistic. When they were just coming to terms with their everyday problems, a supernatural problem will take the cake in their lives. This can be a zombie infestation, a rogue virus, or even a home invasion haunting.
Next in my journey of inspiration I will look for research and odd bits of information to fuel my imagination. Typically I will follow a thread on Wikipedia and follow the links deeper and deeper until I find something I’ve never read or heard of before. This is great practice because it will give you a well of information and anecdotes to sprinkle through your story. It also helps to read about real events that have happened to real people in order to ground your story somewhat in the real world. Even horror needs to be grounded for the audience to extend their disbelief, otherwise it becomes a farce.
Then from there I craft characters and their backstories and come up with the beginning of my plot outline.
This exercise is so rewarding. I highly recommend any new writers give it a shot and see how much more enriched their imagineering time becomes – and how quickly their notebook fills up with bits of information that can sometimes be too crazy to be real. But, you know the old saying that truth is stranger than fiction.
It’s definitely spot on.