Updated: Jul 17, 2021
When I asked this question to Twitter’s Writing Community, the answers I received were vast and varied from the murky depths of memory to inspiration gained from a game or a movie.
I chose four authors from that discussion to share how they reached the idea for their current projects. Their responses range from finding inspiration in a writing challenge, to an idea being born out of a travel experience, to graffiti art, and a compelling subplot.
One thing I learned from this question is that the birth of ideas is limitless. I think if we are open and have the time to think, inspiration is all around us. I hope you enjoy these thoughts from fellow writers on how they came up with their ideas for their stories.
Writing prompts and challenges are not just great ways to sharpen your craft, but can also bring you new inspiration. Last year, I participated in a poetry and flash fiction challenge on Instagram. One of the poems I wrote stuck with me—for months, I couldn’t get the characters out of my head. I started scribbling ideas to make a short story out of it, but soon realized it was much more than a short story. Now, months later, I have written a full novel based on a word prompt poetry challenge. A single word can truly inspire great things!
Rosalyn is the published author of The Crown of Bones and A Sea of Pearls & Leaves, both of which are fairy tale retellings. She is also the host of #NovelBuilding, a daily Twitter question with monthly themes for fellow writers to connect. When Rosalyn isn’t writing or reading, you can find her playing dress up with her two princesses or exploring the woods for wildflowers. She can be found on Twitter @RosalynBriar or at www.rosalynbriar.com.
Travel has had a great influence on my writing, including my most recent novel, Helen’s Surrender.
I’ve always had a love and a fascination with Greek mythology, and finally took a trip to visit Greece a few years ago. While there, I saw a number of temples and famous ruins throughout the country, including the Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus, Poseidon, and Athena.
When you are actually standing in the presence of these places, it's hard not to see how some of the most famous myths were born, and not become inspired yourself. For me, physically experiencing the locations I write about helps me to incorporate a sense of realism by being able to provide accurate descriptions. It also allows me to infuse settings with historicism and grandeur in the hope that I can convey to my readers the same connection to these places as I personally experienced. I love being able to share these glimpses of history and imagination through my writing and helping to bring the mythical experience of these ancient locations to life upon the pages of my stories. Travel has inspired writers for generations, and as I compose my own, I stand upon the shoulders of these sites alongside the real and mythical giants of history.
From a very young age, I've always been fascinated with abstract art, but more specifically with graffiti. The looping colors and shapes with their clever use of both empty and filled space that literally paint words as visual art pieces. It's beautiful even if the art occupies areas and objects that aesthetically have very little to offer. So it wasn't at all shocking that, as my love for art branched into the realms of writing, my love for graffiti and urban areas would seep through. In two of my WIPs graffiti has been blended with the art of magical sigil marking and ward-chains. Large urban art murals are embedded with sigils cleverly hidden in the negative space. Or the style of the art used to shape recognizable words might be a ward-chain or visual spell. These sigil points can span from everything from portal passage to anti-human barriers. Train car graffiti can be used to camouflage sensitive items moving through human areas or sigil graffiti positioned under or along tunnel points might pull ambient power from train cars passing under. I really wanted to draw focus on an art source that so many people shrug off as petty vandalism and weave it into something not only useful but powerful.
Kira of the Wind (Erika McCorkle)
What inspired me to write Merchants of Light and Bone (MoLaB)? For context, it should be noted that I was an avid world builder from the time I was ten years old. Much of my world was developed in my teen/early adult years without much plot context. I wrote stories, of course, but they were never intended to be published. I created the 88 sapienti species that inhabit my world without any concern over “what their role in the story” was (because there was no story). I created cities, magical artifacts, Gods, magic systems, plants and animals, etc. for the sheer purpose of developing the world of the Pentagonal Dominion.
When I decided to write a story in this world, for some reason, I was under the impression I could only write one story: one really long epic tale. It would span a dozen books, sure, but for a long time I never considered the possibility of writing numerous unrelated books. It just never occurred to me that I “could” write other books that take place in the Pentagonal Dominion. So I tried to cram every bit of world building into that one long story (for now, let’s call it The Terran Chronicles. Name subject to change). It was not only impossible to include every detail, it was crude. Totally amateur. I would write scenes for the sole purpose of explaining some aspect of my world that was irrelevant to the plot. I would have scene after scene just introducing a new species, a new plant, some ritual… even readers who claim to love world building would find that tiresome.
There are three connected elements in my world: a species, a magical artifact, and an aspect of their religion. Most of the people in my world are unaware of this connection. It’s a shocking plot twist, something that would make people say “well that’s messed up.” I wanted the reader to experience this twist along with an equally-shocked first-person narrator. In the Terran Chronicles, I shoehorned a subplot wherein the human MC learns about this detail. However, it lacked any drama. Everything in the Pentagonal Dominion was new to this human MC, so there was nothing ‘extra’ shocking about this. I also had no way of making it more personal/dramatic for her, since her interpersonal relationships were already established. Her family and friends had no connection to the twist. She had no stake in it.
When I realized I could write standalone books in the Pentagonal Dominion, one of my first thoughts was to give this subplot the gravitas it deserved. It changed quite a bit during the transition. Amiere and his family did not exist until I decided to write MoLaB. I created his family and his profession to tie into plot twist. Unlike the Terran Chronicles’ MC who could have walked away from the subplot at any point, Amiere has a reason to stay. He’s connected to the plot twist before he even knows what it is. It causes him grief, trauma, and leads him to a life of crime before he learns the secret. That one was the story worth telling.
Kira is preparing to publish her debut fantasy novel. She is a world-building maven and offers thought provoking WritingQs on Twitter as well as generously shares of her own world. She can be found on Twitter @Kiraofthewind1.