She is a great, powerful beauty. She doesn’t sprawl, but anyone else in the position would be sprawled out. Instead, her long legs stretch, pulling taut the soft, draping folds of her toga as she waxes poetic, my muse, laying across my bed, whispering stories into my ear, inspiration for the next great tale of love and adventure.
I do not have a half-naked Greek Goddess of muse and creativity lying across my bed. Inspiration doesn’t work like that.
Instead, it works like lightning and lightning bugs. It crashes loud and flaming across open, empty planes, potent, hot, impossible to ignore. It buzzes softly in my ear, flitting its light on with such calculated intention as to drive me mad, as I wait, eyes wide, for the next blip of an idea to strike me.
Inspiration is a tricky bedfellow. Sometimes, it comes from the world around me – the hidden house on a walk home from work, the snippet of a conversation overheard in a cafe.
Sometimes, it slips right between my eyes, until the whole story plays in technicolor against my eyelids and sometimes it tells me one, singular detail, and I am left scrambling for the rest of the treasure map.
Often times, my stories inspire themselves. Singular tales become sequels become trilogies, become multi-generational affairs. It is exciting. It allows me to make up my world brick by brick, knowing I will stay there a while. I walk into this new book, familiar with my people, places, and things.
But, no matter how potent the influence of my environment or how my own writing, blissfully, continues to create exciting plots, there is one place I can always turn to when I need a new idea.
If you want to be a writer, you must read. It is one of two cardinal truths: Read. Write.
If you do not read, it will show in every inch of your writing. Read, to know what books have been written before you. Read, to understand character development and arc. Read to brush up on plot and story structure.
I am my best writer when I like the story I am reading.
The influences are both shallow and deep. I tend to write in the genre I have consumed most – for instance, when I binge historical fiction, it reflects in my work, and when I listen to a contemporary novel, I find myself writing contemporary stories.
But it goes further than that. Reading the books I love – books very similar to the type I am writing forces me to answer difficult questions. I must dig deep into my research, find my own plot and setting, avoid falling into the pit of using only my current read as a source. So I refocused my efforts, clearing away bulletin boards and setting up outlines.
Books influence writers. It’s a universal truth. Whether they give you the original storyline or demand more from a WIP, they challenge authors – and if you’re not being challenged, you’re not getting better.
So where do the stories come from? They come from stories. They come from the stories of my afternoon, the stories I have already written, and the stories that I love. Stories beget stories – and how wonderful is that? ♦