People ask me all the time (ok, mostly non-writer people ask, becasue people who DO write usually already know), How do you craft these stories and characters all in your head?
I am easily inspired.
It is as simple and miserably difficult as that.
When I say that I’m easily inspired, what I mean is that my imagination is a fertile playground. I look at things in a unique way, something that is common to most people you would probably consider ‘creative types’. For example, yesterday my puppy brought in a piece of a stick, and I swear when I saw it, I thought immediately that it was a mummified finger–becasue that’s how my brain works. Zero to Poltergeist, with nothing in the middle.
Some people jump to the worst case scenario–I jump to the oddest case scenario. I’m also both curious and unsatisfied by nature. All of these things help when I’m crafting a story. Ideas come, of their own free will, and am just, as they say, the messenger. They talk in my head, I transcribe. Which is why you hear writers complain that when they are ‘in the zone’ they for get about everything around them, friends, family, obligations, even eating. It’s probably not that way for all writers, but I’d say its probably the vast majority.
Wait, did I just admit to hearing voices in my head?
Yes. I know. I KNOW. But its absolutely true, when a character is speaking to us, its the best thing ever. Those are the days when words come easy and new things are revealed to us. For example, I was working on All That Glitters not long ago, and my character June revealed a major secret from her past that I had no clue existed. It happens, probably more than you think, to most authors at some point. It’s cute to think we control all those things, but often they come from something so deep, so far inside our own sub-conscience, that its just as much a surprise to us as to everyone else.
So the next question I get (this one from writers) is, How do you STAY inspired? That, my lovelies, is the tricky part. For me, I find whatever helps me hear my characters the most clearly, maybe its music or a piece of clothing that I wear. These are my lures, things that keep the voice I’m trying to hear talking. My advice is simple, find whatever lures your characters forward, and use it. This may mean trial and error on your part. It’s worth it. Think back to where you were and what you were doing the first time you heard the voice, and if need be, replicate that until it’s coming through loud and clear.
But, let me play devil’s advocate for a minute here, it is completely possible to write a book without inspiration. You can take a very clinical approach, formulating a plot, outlining, and then filling in details. You can force yourself to churn out 200 words a day, and it might be gold or it might be crap. I can’t seem to work that way, but I know people who do, who can–and who make a pretty good living at it, too. People talk about the Muse as being the one who brings inspiration, but sometimes the muse is just the looming deadline or the clamoring fans, whatever spurs you forward.
I can only say that each project will be different, but that once you learn what works for you, it will be easy enough replicate the process.
When I was writing my Canary Club books, I visited speakeasies, learned to make prohibition era cocktails, wore sequin tops and flapper headbands around the office. I searched local antique stores for old phones, photos, and advertisements from the era. These things kept me tuned in to the characters, and kept the world alive inside my head. It is wildly different–yet stunningly similar–to how I got my inner teenage hacker talking for my contemporary mystery novels. Once you’ve found your lures, and figured out how to use them for yourself, I promise the words will flow like you can’t imagine.
Do you have a special trick or ritual for calling your muse? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Until next time, happy writing!