Sometimes, people say to me, “I couldn’t write a book. I don’t know where you get your ideas.”
And I always reply, “Sure, you could. We make up stories all day long.The trick is to make up fifty little stories and string them together into a book!”
I am especially prone to making up stories about people in traffic who have earned my ire: cutting me off, driving too slow, driving too fast, weaving down the street or riding their bike on the wrong side, or walking in the street although there’s a perfectly good sidewalk available. (I seem to get mad a lot when I’m driving.)
If I pass someone driving too slow, the story I make up depends upon how that person appears as I stare at them when I’m passing. If it’s a little old lady, I think: she’s afraid of hurting someone. If it’s a sleazy-looking man driving slow, I think: he’s got drugs on him and doesn’t want to get pulled over.
If a well-heeled person in a nice car is driving too fast, either s/he is late too work or is a narcissist who believes everyone should get of their way – it all depends on how they struck me.
The inspiration for the books I’ve written and the ones beating around inside my skull are all some form of injustice. Although I’m capable of making up a story about some slick-suited guy who jumped ahead of me in the dry cleaner line – and I might still use that – the injustice must be so egregious that I am willing to commit to the research, drafting and endless editing and rewriting that a book or even a story demands, the ever-deepening self-examination that gives books their bass notes and that emotional roller-coaster we all know so well.
Sometimes I’m not clearly aware of what the story means to me until I’ve written it all or in part. Then as I scour through writing manuals, working the exercises specifically to my character and plot — which I am now doing in the middle of my first draft — the premise sharpens for me. Needless to say, my daily word count is so dismal, it doesn’t merit notice. However, it’s my hope that this technique will eliminate most of the re-writes down the road.
So, Mysteristas, the question is: where do you get your inspiration?