“Where do you get your ideas?”
Anyone who is a writer has been asked that question. And usually, we answer with some kind of vague hand-waving. Because, really, it can feel like magic. Often when I least expect it, I find myself getting bursts of inspiration, where an entire story plays out in my mind’s eye and I feel like all I have to do is write it down. I scramble for a piece of virtual paper and try to write down all of these ideas before they leave my head. Because sometimes inspiration is fleeting, and vanishes as soon as it appears.
Once, I was playing a video game in my basement late at night, and an entire seven book series flooded into my head. I’m serious. Each book had a contained plot, overarching themes, characters, etc. Sure, there were no details, but to have a gist of that many books over the course of a half-hour was an incredible experience. I could see bits of each storyline, hear a few lines of dialogue, and see the characters fall apart and pick themselves back up.
Magic? Sure seems like it.
Most recently, I had a burst of inspiration in the shower. I wasn’t even thinking about my novel, not really. But my mind wandered, and zeroed in on point in my novel’s outline, a point that I hadn’t quite ironed out the details of. Essentially, the lead heroine of my story, Princess Carmae, finally decides to investigate what feels like a nagging suspicion. She uncovers a dark secret in her kingdom, one that could lead to the overthrow of her stepmother, the queen. The queen, of course, sees Carmae discover this secret.
In my original outline, there was a confrontation that ends vaguely because Carmae still has to get to a certain point for the finale. It was this vagueness that my mind looked at, and found a solution for.
The queen throws Carmae into the dungeon.
It was a simple solution, yet one that made so much sense. The queen can’t let the princess spout out the secret, so she tries to silence the princess. She orders her to the dungeon, to have her killed.
From that tipping point, I was well on my way. Like a trailer for a movie, flashes of images burst by my brain almost too quickly to be processed. There was Carmae in the dungeon, in sorrow over being captured and enraged by the secret. There was her bodyguard (also captured), comforting her. There was the mage coming to their rescue, breaking out of the dungeon just in time. There’s the final confrontation, there’s the dragon, there’s the ninja, there’s the—
This tied up loose ends, everything made sense, and it got my characters to where they needed to be. But most importantly, it felt right.
I can’t speak for every writer, but when I get a burst of inspiration, it usually has a good feeling to it. Like the dots are finally connected, and everything makes sense. Like I’ve finally figured out a great mystery that I had been trying to solve for ages.
It’s also inconvenient.
Like I said, this inspiration happened in the shower. I can’t exactly write it down as it plays out while I’m naked and soaking wet. But perhaps worse than when inspiration shows at an inconvenient time is when inspiration doesn’t show at all.
Writer’s Block. But that’s a subject for another day.
While inspiration like I described above is wonderful, I found that I cannot rely on it. It’s more of a happy occurrence than something I can wait for. If I didn’t have that burst of ideas, I probably would have just chugged through that vague section, aware that something didn’t feel right but having no better solution at the time.
What does your inspiration look like? Do you get bursts like me or something else?
Note: Image of Flexibility As Possible A Magician Mascot. Work And Job Character Stock Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young / FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Caption is my own.