The muse is a fickle mistress. She comes when she likes, and sometimes over the silliest of things. As as quickly as she appears, she can vanish in an instant. It can be hard to capture these moments of inspiration and bottle them up before they escape, but you can at least analyze when they came up most. That way you can be ready for the muse when she decides to saunter in. You already know her favorite hang outs by now.
So I’ll share some of my favorite sources for inspiration when I’m writing. Who knows? Maybe your muse will be impressed, too. Or you can figure out how to lure her on your own using some of the tips here.
Unfortunately, I can only help you figure out how to lay in wait for a muse-sneak-attack. When she wakes you up at three in the morning with an idea, I’ll leave it to you to write it down real quick before she vanishes.
Reading in a huge inspiration for me in writing. Everything from prose, to characters, to plot arcs. Even if I didn’t like everything about a book, there’s usually at least one thing I can take away from it, even if it’s what not to do.
I try to read as often as I can, especially when I think I’m going to like the story. These things usually send me on an inspiration rampage. Rereading good books also does it for me every time, reminding myself of the reasons I fell in love with it, and how I can recreate that experience for my future readers.
Reading books is basically like enjoyable research (although, research is already kind of fun). You’re studying other people’s strategies to the same thing you’re trying to do — which is write a book and get it sold. They already got you to buy the book, so you know something worked! Now’s your chance to figure out how they did it!
Observation of life
Life is probably my biggest inspiration for writing, more than anything else. Things that have happened to me, to other people, even to people I only know through social media or news outlets. Life is the greatest inspiration to draw from because it adds that touch of realism that makes your book relatable. You can learn from anything, whether it be conversations for strips of dialogue, family vacations for panoramic views for descriptions, even people you didn’t like that may never know they got written in as a villain 😉
Everything is usable material in life. A lot of times, I take mental note of experiences, even feelings that I know I might be able to use later. It’s always good to be observant! You’re not just a writer when you sit down and put words on a page. You’re a writer when you get on the bus, show up to work, come late to class, or sit at a restaurant. Making note of all kinds of experiences gives you even more of an arsenal at your disposal when you need that one fact for an important scene.
Trying new things is also a great source of material! What better form of research than to experience it yourself? You may not want to get stabbed for accuracy’s sake (I’m looking at you, romance writers. Yes you, writing the scene where she has to bandage his wounds by the fire, I see you), but you can find out what it’s like to fire an arrow, ride a horse, be at the top of a mountain.
Sure, someone could tell you what all that’s like. But if you have the option to do it, would you really want them to?
Nature is all kinds of weird. Call me crazy, but for my fantasy and sci-fi worlds, some of the best places for ideas for all kinds of fantastical creatures is nature shows. Knowing how animals live, breed, and survive is pretty much the basics of how everything lives. And knowing more about these things only makes your fantasy or sci-fi all the more realistic, with that excellent touch of attention to detail. It’s also crucial to understand climates at the same time, because that’s going to drastically change the kind of critters that evolved on your landscape millions of years before your story even started. So all of these details are great to know and, thankfully, readily available!
I recommend nature shows, Wikipedia, documentaries, and videos on YouTube on exotic pet owners. I know the last one might sound strange, but people that are really dedicated to creating the perfect environment for their pets (when they know what they’re doing) have a lot of insight on what creates the perfect environment for that animal, and what it takes to maintain their happiness. Zoos are just going to keep the animals up for show and give you a few fun facts about them, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either.
Everything that we are today, no matter where we are, was built upon where we were. History is a powerful tool for inspiration in your writing, because no matter how old a story is, you’ll find it repeats itself in many ways throughout time. Human behavioral patterns change just about as much as it stays the same, and taking the time to ponder old these things has many times inspired all kinds of things in my stories!
Not to mention that a lot of things that happened yesterday are still applicable today and probably for the tomorrows to come. For instance, there’s a battle in Wedded that’s very much so inspired from an important historical battle that defined a lot of things for that era, just like it did in Wedded. I had to tweak the battle and add a little modernism to fit the story, but the result was totally worth it. Did you know there’s a lot of battle strategies from the old days that are still used now? So you’re actually boosting up your accuracy when you take a page from the history book (almost literally!)
You can always learn something new from history, so try to pay extra attention next time you see a documentary (or if you’re a weirdo like me, look up historical documentaries on YouTube. You may come out with a dozen story ideas, but at least I warned you).
Movies and TV
I can actually get a lot of inspiration from movies, surprisingly enough. I know there’s a lot you can’t do like in movies, the biggest thing being visuals. However, movies are also limited. They can’t show as much character apart from what the actor can give you from the screen, because we have no internal dialogue to help us out with that. A movie also can’t just tell you how to feel in a certain scene with words, they have to cue things into action and set the background just right so that you walk away with the emotions they were trying to leave you with. Not to mention they have a time limit to stick to.
So what can you learn from all of this? Subtlety. The art of adding a little to say a lot. In movies you’ll see key moments that stick to you, though you may not know why until later. A stranger that bumps into the lead role, only to come up later as a spy planting a tracker.
But how long did it take for that bump to happen? Three seconds. Three seconds and you’re already suspicious of the stranger, something about him seems off, and then we find out later that our hunch was correct. He was up to no good.
That’s the kind of minimalistic style that I think is a hard skill to master in writing. Little hints and signs that something is to come, tiny things that incite a certain mood, certain images that bring up specific emotions. All of these things are great to take note of next time you watch a movie. Take off your viewer glasses for a moment and see it as a story teller, inspecting another story. What’s it made of? What made it work? Can you predict the movie easier seeing arcs and plot devices and foreshadowing?
The possibilities for inspiration are truly limitless. That’s what makes writing stories such a unique experience to every author. And hopefully today you’ve decided to take a closer look at the things that get your brain churning. And maybe jot down a couple notes while you’re at it.