Inspiration from the Mundane
Like all writers, and aspiring writers, I need to get inspiration to move along on a story or piece of writing. Many of us get the idea of a story in our heads, but then it comes down to writing it in such a way that keeps the scenes interesting and the characters believable. This is what I call second-tier inspiration. The question arises –Where does second-tier inspiration come from?
My own view on this is that much of it comes from everyday life, and this is particularly important when trying to develop characters for a story. It doesn’t matter whether your character is a hero in a fantasy novel, a tragic romantic, or a private-eye; they need a bit of depth to make them work for readers. Readers relate to everyday people and their little foibles and idiosyncrasies.
People are incredibly interesting and I spend a lot of time watching them (but I hasten to add, not in a creepy stalker type way) on the bus, at café’s, just walking down the street, and at work. The most mundane of activities can be inspiring. The novel I am currently working on benefitted from an absolutely appallingly tedious meeting I attended. Half way through, inspiration struck. I used the boredom to write a scene. It starts – Crowley decided that he’d rather suffer from bubonic plague than listen to Dan speak, or perhaps Ebola or an acute case of appendicitis – and then the whole scene flowed out.
Watching how some people on a bus try desperately to avoid eye-contact and shrink away from physical contact (especially futile in rush hour), or those that walk into a room and immediately take control, or those that have annoying little habits that you can steal for your own characters, can help you develop texture to your story. Even simple acts such as watching somebody walk, sip a cup of coffee, or their reaction to various stressors at work will help you.
Seeing how people act when they talk to each other also provides inspiration. Do they engage with others, do their eyes dart all around the room, do they suddenly change their views if they are in the minority, is their laugh like a hyena or rumbling train? Just recently I was in a café and a man got incredibly upset that a woman sitting near to where he and his wife were talking, silently wrote them a note that she handed to them when she got up to leave. It was quite abusive and derogatory about their conversation. Upsetting as this was for the couple, and quite weird in many respects (very passive aggressive) that is pure gold for a writer; an actual event that would sound way too weird if not for the fact that it was true.
This happens a lot, more than you realise, and it is simply a matter of stepping outside your environment and looking in at it with a writer’s eye.
Using the mundane has inspired a blog and a book or two, and it is currently helping me write a novel. It’ll work for you too. Just be patient and things will happen right in front of you.
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