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Finding Inspiration

Life often has a way of making things feel dull, routine and just downright unfun. Even when doing the thing you love for a job sometimes it feels like a chore. The constant daily grins of meeting word counts, fixing errors and finding a way to market the books already published can be wearing despite the love of creating and telling stories. This can lead to ideas going stale and a certain loss in quality of writing.

When life gets like this I realise that sometimes it’s good to take a break, let the mind rest and refind the love of the job. There are several ways I try this.

Enjoying other good stories. Whether this is reading or watching them, I occasionally find that nothing reignites my passion for creating a good story quite like delving into someone elses does and being taken along for the ride. Sometimes one little line or spark of an idea makes all the difference. And at worst I’ve given my mind a rest and enjoyed something relaxing and interesting.

Getting out into nature. Going outside, getting a complete change of scenary and also getting a little exercise can often help me relax, refocus and get back into the right mindspace to enjoy writing again. Sometimes the routine and sameness of each day is what’s making it hard to focus. Going somewhere else and seeing something new can be the little bit of change needed to make the world feel fresh and interesting again.

Trying something different. Sometimes the problem is writing the same sort of story over and over again. I find it can really break open my writing to try a new challenge. Often trying to write in a new genre or a new style can break the monotony and at the same time be a great learning experience to bring back to the usual stories.

Fixing a problem. Occasionally the blockage is unrelated to the writing and is an issue or undealt with conflict in another area of life. It can be very hard to stir up the emotions and creativity needed to write about one circumstance when another in our own life is commandeering all our emotional energy. It can help to down tools, work out a satisying resolution to a problem and then come back to work knowing our quality of life has improved or is improving thanks to the effort we’ve put in elsewhere. Doing our dream job so much the rest of life suffers won’t make us any happier in the long run.

I’ve found that often when I don’t feel inspired to write the above, or a combination of them eventually lead to me getting back into my writing, but I’m sure there are other fixes to the problem too. If you find other things work please let me know in comments or email etc.

Ideas, Inspiration and The End of the World

At the moment I’m trying my best to get The Fire of Winter finished. I originally expected it to be about 100-110k long. Definitely the longest I’ve ever written but it just keeps getting longer, as you can see from the progress bar, I’m now estimating a good bit more.

The biggest problem with a book this long is my ideas and the research I need to do. So far this year I’ve had nine new ideas, several of which are the beginnings of a dysotopian world which lends itself very well to a series of stories. These are some of the most exciting sorts of ideas because they have the fun world building around them as well as the ideas themselves.

I’ve also read a lot of really good books lately that often make me want to try to write something similar. I’ve said before that the Sherdan series was inspired by the tv series the 4400. It also has political conflict in it that can be similar to the political strife in the Game of thrones series and I love loads of the characters in that. All of it serves to make me rather distracted from my current writing task.

For research I’ve also been studying the biblical end times prophecies (not an easy thing to do) with the help of a friend and it’s very distracting. I’m just aware it would be quite a lot of time out of writing if I don’t at least start studying it before this current book is finished and I want to write the next, but mostly it’s just making me very eager to write book three in the Sherdan series before I’ve even finished the current book.

Also I’m tweaking book two in the Sherdan series and having it proofread to get it ready for launch in about 5-6 weeks which makes me want to delve into the world of Anya and Sherdan again. Hopefully soon I can.

 

Tolkien and the world he created

Now I’m finally writing my own fantasy I’m spending more time looking at the lovely world created by Tolkien. He was a very brilliant man and a genius in his own field of linguistics. Occasionally if you’re looking for it you will see his name along side others on particular translations of the Bible.

Lord of the rings was the first book of his I read but it was swiftly followed by the hobbit, the silmarillion and I even own a few others of the many books of stories that his son and grandson have since published.

In my opinion Lord of the rings is by far the best. I know a lot of people say it would never have been published today but I really hope it would. Yes, there is a lot of description and sometimes it feels like it drags but it is a fantastic example of an epic quest undertaken by the unlikeliest of hero.

The description is seen as a good thing by some people, however. The details in Tolkien’s world is immense. He knew where everything was and had countless notes on the little towns and big cities, the races and everything else he thought he might need to remember.

While writing my own it’s very easy to delve into what he created and get lost in it for hours and the extended editions of the three lord of the rings films are fantastic too.

On top of that there is the very awesome trailor for the first of two hobbit films out this Christmas. I can hardly wait.

Inception: A Review

I have been in two minds about seeing this film for absolutely ages. I have a lot of dreams and was wary that a film all about manipulating dreams would have a very negative impact on my dreams. I was also quite wary of the fact of the only two films on my very much banned list one of which was directed by the same person as Inception. As such I didn’t go to see the film at cinema ( in case I would want to walk out part way through) but waited until a convenient time to watch it with my most trusted film critic.

Thankfully the film had none of the problems I was afraid off, in fact it had quite the reverse affect on my thoughts. The film was much much lighter than I was expecting and although it dealt with some pretty difficult issues that I won’t mention here, it handled them amazingly well.

Although the main plot of the film was to do a particular job before they ran out of time I was pleased to note the film actually spent a good deal more of it’s time focusing on the affects of the issues, and other things in peoples lives, had on the dream they created. That the things we dwell on, good or bad, come out in what we do, whether we want them to or not.

I really loved this idea as I personally feel that it’s something an artist or anyone who creates can never be too careful about. We create from the input into our lives and the important things to us. Therefore, what we watch, read and take in, in our every day lives, as well as the state of our own emotions and hearts, comes out in our work. It’s incredibly hard to write a light fluffy poem about sunshine and clouds when you’ve just watched The Dark Knight and you’re still really bitter and angry about the fact someone crashed into your car in the car park that morning and drove off.

It’s a pure example of what goes in must come out and I think that’s true for everyone, not just creative people. Therefore, we have to be relatively guarded with what we watch and read if we want to be careful what comes out of us.

Another thing Inception did well was the whole notion of accountability. For a good chunk of the film only one other person knew of the main characters issues and rather than telling everyone or being angry with him she gently helped him through working it out, offering her support and encouraging him to open up to her. In doing so it gave the main character the support and courage he needed to face his own issues and deal with them.

I would hope anyone I created anything with would have the same understanding and encouragement with me if some of my issues came out in my work, and that, as a result, whatever we created together would be a lot better for it.

In terms of the cinematography the film was, in short, amazing. I really do feel a little annoyed I didn’t go see it on the big screen. However, I’d actually be defying the films main premise if I had. It’s important to be careful what we see, read and let feed us emotionally.

Forming Ideas

Often people ask how to form ideas and where inspiration comes from. I thought I’d share where mine comes from and how I form that first spark into a fully fledged plot idea.

The spark

Most of my ideas are stimulated by something that has happened in my life; a conversation, something I’ve watched, something I’ve listened to. Often the link is quite tenuous, however. For example, a conversation I had recently with a friend about growing up in the perfect 2.4 family, with happily married parents, sparked an idea about a little girl of 16 who lived in a small village and had a crush on the guy next door.

The link is the perfect family but the family would make up very little of the plot of the story, at least to start with.

I also had an idea sparked recently by watching the sci-fi tv series The 4400. The tv series is about fourty-four-hundred people who are taken from various points in time, given a enzyme called promicin and dropped back all together in the same point in time. The drug they were given then produced a unique ability in each of them. Watching this series reminded me of a cute theory I’d had a few years back when thinking about humans being made in the image of God.

Back when it was commonly known that we only used 10% of our brains I came up wtih an interesting theory that it was because God had made us in his image and we used the other 90% when we got closer to God and used his abilities, like heal sick people, move things and control the weather. To me it made some sense in us being made in the image of God, why on earth would God give us parts of our brain we didn’t use? Though the original premise is no longer held to be true because we do use all our brain, just not all of it all the time, the spark of an idea is still there.

This lead to me thinking further. What if there were a whole bunch of people that developed unique abilities because they started accessing some more of their brain/some new level of concentration? Now this is beginning to sound like x-men so the next question I can ask myself is how can I move this idea on so it’s more my own idea again and not the same as others.

Well so far I don’t know of anyone that’s done this and had it be possible to lose the powers. Like we could forget how to use the new power. Or that we need to learn how to do so in the first place. Kinda like learning to cook.

Voila, we have a basic idea. A world where a few people have begun to use a unique ability that uses a part of their brain not normally used and can be lost if not used properly.

The Moment

Once I’m happy I’ve sparked a basic idea I try to create a character or two. The best way to do this is think about the key moments that would be created within the above idea.

For example with my girl next door having a crush, I’d start thinking through a conversation between girl with crush and the neighbouring crushee. While going through the conversation in my head their personalities begin to form and I’ve got two vague outlines of two characters as well as the beginnings of a moment in the book/film.

With the sci-fi unique powers idea it’s much more likely to be a action style or drama style thing so the best first moment I can create is with something going on. So let’s start with having a male, let him be a leader type. For now we will call him Jordan.

We’ll assume Jordan has a power so the best place we can start is thinking what kind of powers are likely to make him a good person to have in a leadership role. Maybe he can tell when people are lying. Really tell, because people can trick lie detectors, but not this guy. That would be a very useful ability. Or we could give him the ability to figure out what other people’s abilities are, maybe even block them or remove them completely.

We’ll pick the later power. He can have an advisor that can tell if people are lying and Jordan will be able to tell people’s abilities and block them if he wishes.

So what is Jordan doing? We know he’s a leader and know his ability. Let’s have him in some underground command bunker, issuing orders to other people with abilities. We want to create a moment so something needs to happen. An interruption is always good and another character. First meetings are always a good place to start when getting to know characters.

Two guards come in, forcefully steering a female into the room. She’s wearing dark clothes because she’s been sneaking around and she stops struggling when she sees Jordan. She recognises him.

So our guards would apologise for interrupting our big boss guy Jordan. Jordan would not respond and focus on her. She’s the interesting thing.

“You don’t have an ability.” Jordan would point out.

“No. That’s what I came to talk to you about.”

“You came to see me?”

“Yes. I want to talk to you.”

“I’m a very busy man.”

“It’s important.”

Jordan would sigh, let’s face it, it’s always important. But this chick has just somehow got through all his many lines of defences unarmed, without killing anyone, and with no ability whatsoever. She also has essentially signed a death sentence on herself coming into an ability zone without one. (yes I did just make all that up, but it makes it interesting. If in doubt put someone’s life in danger and make them do something out of the norm in response, as long as it fits their character it’s all good and conflict makes for interesting times)

So our guy would ignore her for now. Let his men handle her. She has no ability and he really is rather busy.

Two days later our chick still refuses to give anyone her name or state her reason for being there. All she says is that she wants to see Jordan and talk to him. Jordan watches a few security video’s maybe of them trying to get info out of her and considering who she is etc I doubt they are being too nice. No food at the least and possibly a lot worse. Jordan is bugged by her, maybe can’t sleep for thinking about her, so finally agrees to see her.

At this point she’s exhausted; all the effort finding him and then they lock her up for two whole days. She’s going to give Jordan her full attention though as he sits down in the room with her. But she’ll be calm, waiting for him to speak. She’s in no hurry. (Going to have to come up with a really good reason for her being here, it’s got to be something that will make her go through all that willingly and be believable. If in doubt God works well, or some moral issue and failing that, love. Money would be no good as she may well die. Those are the three big motivators in people’s lives)

“So what’ your name?” Jordan asks. ( I think we’ll have him feeling quite sorry for our girlie here, even if we don’t tell the reader/audience it’s good to know how the character would be thinking and feeling)

“I can’t tell you that.”

“What can you tell me?”

“I need to see the prophecy you are following.”

“Who said we were following any prophecy.”

“We know Jordan. It’s wrong… I think.”

“You think?”

“Can I hear it please?”

“And that’s all you came here for?”

“Not exactly but that’s where I was told to start.”

“Who sent you?”

“God”

“God?”

“Yeah, God. Well my Church actually but we felt God wanted someone to come.”

“Why?”

“Because you’ve underestimated God’s people in these plans. In fact, you’ve not included us at all. It’s really not wise to make plans for the end of the world without including the people you need for the Heaven part afterwards. But that’s actually not the point for the moment.”

“It’s not?”

“No, I would just like to see the prophecy you have. I assume someone wrote it down. Could I read a copy please?”

“That’s all you came here for? To read the prophecy?”

“Well, I suppose so. So can I?”

“Will you give me your name afterwards?”

“Maybe. It depends.”

Ok and moment done now I think. So from that moment, we now have two characters we can play with; Jordan and our elusive chick on a mission from God. We know Jordan is following some kind of prophecy to lead people with abilities to some kind of Heaven. He’s not too worried about his means to get there if he has a command bunker and just allowed his men to spend two days torturing our girlie. So we still don’t know if he’s good guy or bad guy. He could well be both.

Our girlie is evidently a firm believer in God, and since she has said Church we can assume of the Christian variety. That alone seems to be motivation for her to risk her life. She’s quite open, almost chatty with Jordan but has kept her mouth shut in front of others.

We also now know there is some plan to end the world/get to Heaven. It appears people with abilities are potentially at war with those that don’t have them and the church hasn’t taken sides, at least not yet anyway.

Congratulations, the spark has become a world with potential characters and a lot of potential plot variations. From here I would flesh out those two characters and properly name them both. I’ve talked about character development in previous posts. Then that should lead to the plot, which I may well talk about in another blog.