Most writers get one particular question a lot. It’s one many of us dread hearing: “Where do you get your ideas from?” The reason the question is so hard to answer is there’s no good answer for it. Or, maybe, we worry we would sound a little crazy if we talked about the times a turn of phrase or a particular word popped into our heads and we dashed from the shower to write it down (and the word/phrase initiated an entire dialogue or even plot.)
Writing is an odd thing. Some days I feel like I’m just scouting for material as I do household errands, volunteer at my child’s school, and go to Brownie meetings. Meeting interesting people is always good. How do the shy, retiring types really behave? What about the strident folks who mow you down with their personalities? Even negative experiences and impossible people can be fodder for your book---are they the perfect murder victim? Or maybe the murderer who gets his in the end?
And many of us owe our writing styles (and to a certain degree, plot structures) to authors who have gone before us—Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Poe, Conan Doyle, and Chandler. In fact, two authors recently took their inspiration not only from Charles Dickens’ style, but from his actual work—his unfinished "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" . Dan Simmons even went as far as to invoke Wilkie Collins as Dickens’ friend in Simmons’ Drood.
Friends and family can also provide inspiration. After all, these are the people we know the best. Sometimes their personalities, looks, and experiences creep into our writing. And, of course, the encouragement they provide is a real inspiration. They’re the ones who ask us how it’s going and help us stay on track with our goals.
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