Inspiration can strike us at any time from a vast array of sources. An overheard conversation, a scenic view, an image or a news report – the list goes on and on. One of the most frustrating but rewarding is dreams. They are elusive a lot of the time but if we can capture them somehow, they can become the marvelous start to a story idea.
In my current steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift, the initial scene is actually a dream sequence I experienced. It is a cloaked figure propelling out of a high window. When I woke up, I immediately wrote down everything I could remember of the scene. It was an older mansion house, an older time period and the person falling was a young female wearing a cloak.
Writer Tip: Always keep a notebook and pen beside your bed.
Upon reflection of the dream, I was able to ascertain that the ‘place’ was actually very similar to my old school in England. Which was an Elizabethan mansion. When I was at school many of the rooms still had the original wooden paneling, large stone fireplaces and leaded-light windows. It is now a historic site and open to visitors. https://www.historichouses.org/houses/house-listing/shaw-house.html (images above)
As with most dreams their fleeting quality can make solidifying them difficult but with practice you can train yourself to remember them. A notebook is useful to have on hand but also try to keep within the dream for as long as you can before you become fully awake and your day starts.
Here are a few tips to try:
Write, “I can remember my dreams” on a sticky note, place it somewhere you’ll see it before you go to sleep, and read the note aloud.
Go to bed at a regular time.
Practice 20 minutes of mediation prior to sleep.
What dream(s) resulted in a story idea for you? Please share in the comments.
When in the midst of creating a new narrative, inspiration boards, whether physical or digital, can help immerse us in a particular time period, allow us to ‘see’ our characters, and are a great aid to making the story come alive. This board will evolve over time as ideas, images, quotes, magazine and newspaper clippings, photos, found objects, handwritten quotes, font samples, buttons and badges etc. influence our writing.
There are options for an inspiration board:
A full wall
A large poster
A digital folder of images
A Pinterest board
Find an option that works best for you and that can be arranged and rearranged easily. As you delve into the narrative new characters may form or there is a twist in the plot that takes the story somewhere unexpected – change the board accordingly. Physically moving papers, photos, objects, and ephemera triggers different parts of our brains than moving digital information…and that can help us create new connections and come up with even more fresh ideas.
There are options for the type of board you create but all of them should allow change as the story develops.
Book Cover Board – what images appeal?
Character Board – what do they look like?
World Board – where are they?
History Board – what events have taken place?
Problem Board – what is the protagonist’s problem?
Quote Board – which evoke the story?
As I am writing a steampunk novel currently, my boards are filled with physical and digital images. There is a plethora of images available so that has made it easy to some extent but also difficult as too much input can detract from my focus. Here are some examples.
What does your current inspiration board look like?
5 of 5….Once again the King delivers a story that grips you from the start and pulls you into a situation that could be only too real…secret government establishments and projects, the harnessing of powers from the most vulnerable and the enormity of trying to overcome it.
What are you reading? What was the last book you reviewed?
I’m asked where my inspiration comes from, so I am happy to share this piece, which is the result of my walking to the store along an icy sidewalk. As I walked, it occurred to me how careful I was with my steps as opposed to a couple of young boys, who passed me without a care, in regard to the condition of the surface they walked on. Inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources, and like this piece can emerge seamlessly.
The Fear of Falling
As children, falling is as commonplace as eating and breathing, there is no fear. We transition from crawling on all fours to the tottering and grasping of objects or parental hands to standing upright. The falling is a learning process on how to balance upright, adapting our bodies to counteract the instability of standing. Once standing has been achieved, we learn the motion of walking and eventually running. As we grow older, we engage in other activities that result in falls, such as bike riding, engaging on playground equipment, sports and the inevitable school recess antics. It is an expected result of such endeavours and bruises, cuts and scrapes are a part of everyone’s childhood. Skinned knees are the badge of childhood.
In our teen years and early twenties, our falling can be of a more serious nature as our activities involve more extreme modes of transport and sports. Snowboarding and skiing, for instance, are often accompanied by falls, which hopefully have softer landings but not always. Unfortunately, motor bikes and cars do not have a soft landing to our falling. For example, I suffered severe bruising from coming off a motorbike on an ice covered road and hitting the curb with my rear! I couldn’t sit properly for weeks. Injuries are more severe and falling has more dire consequences. This is the start of a fear of falling for some of us.
As we mature, play recedes into the background as we immerse ourselves into work and other commitments. Some of us continue with sporting activities, of course, but we minimize the risks of falling as much as is possible. Our body weight, as opposed to a baby or toddler is greater and therefore so is the impact of a fall. Falling becomes a distant memory for the most part and is a rare occurrence (hopefully). We may see the fear of falling in our elders and try to understand their way of thinking as we have not reached that stage of our life yet.
Eventually, as our body ages and its ability to bounce back declines, our fear of falling increases as does the impact, literally. A steep hill, an icy pathway, slippery rocks by the ocean and a vast number of other obstacles increase our apprehension. The mere thought of falling is anxiety inducing. We understand the fragility of our aging bodies and the possible outcomes of a fall. We read statistics that give us more anxiety, such as 800,000 patients a year are admitted to hospital due to fall injuries, usually hip or head fractures but also strained muscles, dislocations and open wounds. We understand falls are caused by balance problems, muscle weakness, poor vision, low blood pressure or even dementia. In other words getting old isn’t for the faint hearted and certainly falling isn’t on a ‘to do list’!
It took some time to decide whether I would participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have participated ten times in all and each time have created novel or novella length manuscripts. Most have been revised and edited over the following year or so to become published books. Some quicker than others it must be said. My very first NaNo in 2009 resulted in a work not published until last September! Yep 9 years. This was due to it being my first full length manuscript, my novice writing and self doubt that it was worthy of publishing. I revised and edited almost every year until I took the plunge, finally satisfied it was finalized.
However, in regard to this year’s NaNo, my first stumbling block was the two draft novels I have pending, which are previous year’s NaNoWriMo manuscripts. Again I know they need revisions and editing prior to submission to a publisher. My struggle was should I work on these manuscripts rather than create another one?
Secondly, I have several events to attend during November, which will take me away from the vital writing time needed for NaNo. As we all know every minute counts during November. Will I have enough time to succeed?
Thirdly, although I browsed the multitude of saved short stories in my laptop folders, I was not convinced any of them were novel length material. Or maybe it was my Muse not being excited enough about them – who knows? So I pondered what ‘new’ story I could write. Nothing I thought of seemed the elusive ‘it’ until just as I was drifting off to sleep an idea burst into my mind. It gave me a rough timeline, one character and the inkling of a plot. Knowing that relying on memory is a writer’s mistake when ideas pop up, I got up and wrote it all down. Subsequently, I have managed to decide on my two main characters, their location, some backstory and a timeline.
So I am as ready as I can be for 1st November. If you would like to connect on the NaNoWriMo site I’m MandyB.
Several people enjoyed the button prompt, so today’s question is:
What story comes to mind with this image? Use 69 words or less.
Here is my interpretation:
The streets lay deserted and dirty. The last flickering of an advert splashed against the buildings husk. Nature will encroach to claim back what is rightfully hers, once again. The structures will house animals and insects and plants will flourish as the cement and steel crumble and rust.