So it’s not so much that this post has spoilers, but it does discuss elements from my novel. I promise there isn’t anything life shatteringly spoilery…
I have been asked by fellow writers as well as close friends and family how I get inspired. Let me be more specific. I’ve written a total of four novels in my life (five if I’m counting the adorable little one I wrote when I was twelve…well, little being 166 pages). Two of which I wrote in high school, one which bloomed into The Light in the Dark, and my most recent project which I’m currently querying for.
This is going to sound ten million times worse than I mean it to, but I did not think anything of this fact. And maybe it really is a big old shrug emoji (¯\_(ツ)_/¯ this one. I love this one), but I’ve had people drop their jaws when I tell them the word counts under my belt.
This is what leads people to asking me how I get inspired. To come up with an idea, form it, nurture it, then actually stick to it to produce a book. The answer isn’t usually what they want. They want my secret, my encouraging “how-to” sort of DIY method. But to be honest? Stories come to me. Like to the point where I’ll be sitting on the sofa, standing in the shower, walking my dog, and BOOM OH HELLO NEW STORY IDEA WHY DID YOU JUST APPEAR OUT OF NOWHERE??
In this blog post, however, what I want to do is explain the most common ways I get inspired to write. Now this is usually after the main idea has come to me, not that they can’t inspire something new, but these little methods are the ways I either 1. keep the ideas rolling, 2. stay in the world I’m creating/have created, and 3. REFRESH MYSELF AND MAKE IT FUN SO I’M NOT WANTING TO PEEL MY SKIN OFF IF I GET STUCK.
Inspiration for me is a noun. I mean it is for you too, but here’s what I mean. People, Places, and Things. Here are some of the inspirations I used for The Light in the Dark…
I can’t name some of them because they are my family/friends and they may be shocked or angry, but yes. People in my real life are often the best sources of inspiration, second only to fictional characters. For example, Rose (the protagonist of my novel) is a very “new” character in a lot of ways for me, but her fire and determination is borrowed from my older sister. However, the sort of Pride and Prejudice thing I have going on between Rose and Faolan at first (because I’m a sucker for hate to friendship to love tropes) gives her a bit of a rougher Elizabeth Bennett vibe. Not to mention that I wanted her to be almost Amazonian, so we got some Wonder Woman in there too, but I added a bit of softness and insecurity, which, if I’m being honest, is me…Oops, self-insertion!
But the people in my life are usually the flesh and blood characters that help me craft a different one out of ink. Does this mean I know someone as sadistic and cruel as Lord Caitiff or Calix? No. But I have had bullies like Sirrah, and I have read about historical villains who were eight bags of crazy, so amping up the natural crap I’ve experience with some 15th century insanity gave me a very good base to create some pretty big jerks.
My favourite part and arguably the hardest. For The Light in the Dark specifically, I was lucky enough to enjoy a trip to Ireland before really hunkering down and writing. The greenery, the forests, the old buildings and crumbling towers…very inspiring. A+, Ireland.
While the Singing Forest is definitely thicker and darker and creepier than a lot of the woods I saw, just being in that atmosphere helped. What I’m saying is nature in general, or just getting out of your head and your space and going someplace new (either a new country or down the street) is so, so, so, helpful. I have a laptop, not a desktop, for the exact purpose of being able to change it up. Writing and getting lost in it and being enveloped by it when on a roll is one thing, but getting stagnant is the other thing…and it sucks.
Just to give you a taste, here are some of my favourite pictures that I captured literally with my partner going, “Is this inspiration for your novel?”
I have, like, hundreds more. Not even just from Ireland, but from all over. My backyard, the dog park, a hallway in a family friend’s home…if I think it’ll help me, I’ll snap a photo, or even write something down right then.
I am classifying this section as “everything else” in my mind. Things are literally anything that can relate to what I’m working on, or help me during the process, or create that atmosphere I need. This can be books, TV shows, movies, random items like a notebook or old watch or candlestick…but most of all, it’s music.
For The Light in the Dark I listened to a combination of Celtic music (some personal faves from childhood such as Riverdance and an album by Howard Baer with some lovely pieces), Indian music (again personal faves from childhood, mainly being the movie Taal), and some dark, edgy, emotional modern pieces (a lot of Sia, Band of Skulls, MUSE, and man just so many more angsty tunes).
Along with this I threw in some movie soundtracks to amp things up if I was writing a fight scene or a tender scene, but for the most part I used mood music and even some ambient sounds to get my head in the the Singing Forest, the Dokkalfar Court, Faolan’s room, etc…Nothing like finding that one song that really, really, really hurts your soul. Like in a good way though. (*cough* Dressed in Black by Sia *cough*)
So in conclusion I realize I’ve basically just told you that life inspires me, which is actually poetically perfect. I’ve always been a girl who has one foot in reality, and another someplace completely my own. Sometimes it skews my expectations of this life, or makes all the hardships seem that much worse.
But let me say this…It’s amazing how you can feel your own world is so dull or so hard or so tiring, and yet it gives you the fuel to create something beautiful, something meaningful. Everything I ever write is born from a combination of my wild imagination, and the real world I live every day. So never give up. And never surrender. And bonus points to whoever gets that reference.