Thursday, March 18, 2010

In the Beginning

Each writer's inspiration is unique. It could be song you heard on the radio. It could be a painting of a road winding off into the horizon. It could be an old photograph found in the back of an antique store.

Mine is usually a character.

Many times it's the victim. Who is this person and what is it about them that gets them killed? Is it where they live? What they know? What they've seen? Are they good or bad? All these questions are answered and in the answers lie the rest of my characters.

Sometimes it's a situation - a high school graduation, a wedding or a reunion. I like to write about events, simply because everyone can identify with them and it gives another layer of reality to the plot. I figure out who's attending and then the identity of the hapless victim usually becomes clear.

And another body hits the floor.

My characters give me my plot far more often than my plot gives me my characters. My victim colors everything - who they know, how they live, what they dream about. Are they loved? Hated? Feared? (which is always fascinating)

But after the fun of the inspiration, I have to actually write. That's work.

I have to remind myself about pacing, about description, about dropping clues in different ways. I worry about what every writer worries about. I mostly worry about the quality of the writing.

Where do your inspirations leap from?


  1. Elspeth - I agree; this picture is fabulous! As far as I get inspired goes, this may seem fanciful, but the victim often just comes to my mind. I get a picture first of who she or he is, and why that person would be a victim. It's often in the victim's story that we learn who the killer is, and that's how I think. Once I think of who the victim is, I know (and this is the fanciful part) there's a story that needs to be told, so that's what gets me started.

  2. Karen; I love that story! It could have been a whispering from one of the wee folk, you know. You WERE in Ireland.

    Margot; I don't think it sound fanciful at all, simply because (selfishly) I work in a very similar way! It's perfectly sane to me. But what does that say?

  3. Emotion. I always feel the emotion in a climatic scene first. Very shortly thereafter the characters jump in - often fully created. But it's that tug of emotion first.

  4. I'm inspired by setting (ancient Egypt), characters, and emotion. In fact, when emotion is lacking that usually means the scene needs tweaked.

  5. Jemi; That's really interesting. My brain just doesn't work that way.

    Stephanie; I hear you about setting! Of course, for me, it's pre-war and WWII in England. And emotion is the magic, isn't it?

  6. Usually I begin with a plot. But when I write flash fiction, it is best to start out with the twist (or at least a satisfactory ending) - if I don´t have that in place, it is not worthwhile beginning.

  7. Sometimes it's the simplest thing that can give you the most inspiration.

  8. Dorte; I've never tried flash fiction; but I do enjoy reading it.

    Mason; True words!

  9. Elspeth, in my first mystery, setting came first. My main characters were already there for the sequel, so setting was second and other characters third.

    For the historical novel (unpublished), the character came first after a young girl I saw in a dream. In my current suspense WIP, the main character grew out of the opening scene which I imagined first.

    I love that stories can begin in so many different ways. It's one of the things that makes writing so much fun.

  10. Oops, forgot to mention the photo. I have one very similar taken of my dad walking away from the photographer on a deserted beach in Florida many, many years ago. I did a watercolor of it (not a very good one, I'm afraid) because it says so many things about loneliness versus being alone. I love the image.

  11. My inspirations often come so fast and then I spend the next moments trying to capture it that I have no idea where it stems from exactly but I suppose something triggers it.


  12. Patricia; It's fun stories can come in so many different guises. As for writing being fun...I'll get back to you on that one. It IS a cool picture, isn't it? I wish I could paint.

    Ann; You sound very lucky. How wonderful for you!

  13. I’ve received inspiration for stories from dreams, walking, overhearing bits of conversations or simply seeing someone who looks like an interesting character.

  14. Like you said, different things. But for me it is mostly the world around me. I am inspired by everyday interactions and random knowledge that makes its way into my brain. I love to learn, so each knew story that crops up is fun.

    Southern City Mysteries

  15. It is always people jumping around my mind, trying to grab my attention and get me to tell their story.

    Fantastic picture, and I loved Pat's comment on being alone v/s loneliness.

  16. For me it all starts with the dead people. :) Like you, I start with the victim.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  17. My new book was inspired by HIV. I wanted to write a book about a couple where one gets HIV because of an affair but it actually brings them closer together. From there it has taken on alife of its own.


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