Finding Inspiration For Your Stories, by Kelly Inglis
If you’ve tried writing a list of questions to help you identify what the next part of your story is, but your story still won’t reveal itself, you may need to take a short break from your story and look for some other inspiration. Sometimes we writers get too close to our work and can’t see the proverbial forest for the trees.
Writing prompts can be helpful in arousing your creativity. These often have absolutely nothing to do with your WIP but by temporarily refocusing your writing on another area, it can help ‘relax’ your mind and allow your story to flow better. There are countless books available with various writing prompts. These books encourage you to sit and free write for ten to fifteen minutes on a prompt, and use as few or as many of these as you need in order to restimulate your imagination. There are two formats I have seen a lot of.
The first format consists of a phrase or a sentence and you simply write for the next ten or fifteen minutes to complete that story. It may have nothing to do with your own story but sometimes you just need to get your creative juices flowing and free-writing with a prompt can help enormously. “I remember when…” is one phrase that has been used as a prompt in several writing classes I’ve attended over the years. A prompt can be a sentence describing a scene or a person or an emotion. For example, “The wide smile plastered across her face belied the emotional torment she was feeling within,” provides you with plenty of inspiration. Who is this person? Why is she struggling emotionally? Why does she have to put on a brave face? Similarly, “The earth seemed to hold its breath while the sun struggled to force the first light of dawn through the haze,” provides endless questions for you to answer in your free writing session.
The second format of writing prompts that I’ve seen are more visually-oriented. With these, each prompt is in the form of a photo and you free-write for ten or fifteen minutes to reveal the story contained within that photograph.
I have also created my own list of writing prompts and snippets of inspiration to help me when I’m stuck and the words aren’t flowing. I find inspiration in the everyday things we do and people we see. Regardless of whether I’m at the park or at a coffee shop or going for a run, I love to observe people and the things they do. Quite often, I’m struck by an interesting character when I’m out and about. I commit to memory as many details about the person as I can and then write them down in a notebook as soon as possible. New characters, even those with very small contributions to my stories, have often spawned that way. Alternatively, I might have seen an interesting exchange between two people that is full of emotion – love, desire, anger or disgust, it doesn’t matter which – that strikes me. Or it might be a snippet of conversation overheard in a changing room or a bus stop that intrigues me. Sometimes it’s a news article that inspires me, and then that snippet of real life insinuates itself into a great plot. Whatever the inspiration is, as soon as I can, I write it down in my little notebook, and refer to it when the dreaded writer’s block intrudes. Some of the things I have written in that notebook have spawned entirely new story plots, while at other times, it has given clarity to a character I’ve been struggling to develop or has provided an interesting side story or conflict to compliment the main plot. Whatever the case, that little notebook I keep has saved many of my stories from the disaster of writer’s block.
So when you feel that you’ve lost your writing mojo, don’t despair. Open up a book of writing prompts, go to the park or a coffee shop and quietly observe people. Sooner or later, your imagination will be roused out of its slump and your story will flow. And maybe you’ll even find the inspiration for your next plot.
Writing Novels in Australia