Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Inspiration

Inspiration is a weird thing, and you find it in the weirdest places. And then you take it to the weirdest places. 



A few weeks ago I saw a kid in the shopping centre. He was about 17, slightly scruffy, caught somewhere between an emo and a punk, and still growing into his limbs. A bit gangly, a bit awkward, and hiding it all underneath a scowl and some eyeliner. 

And I liked him. He was interesting, that kid. He looked angry and vulnerable at the same time. And I know nothing else about him, so I made it up. I've used that kid as a template for my current main character. I've given him a buzz cut, a bad attitude, and a nervous habit of always looking at his watch. Always checking to see how much time has passed, always counting down the seconds, and always waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

So a quick glimpse of a kid hanging around outside the supermarket, and the story built itself from there. And now it's a story that is a hundred years and a million miles away from my local shopping centre, because there's nowhere that your inspiration, coupled with imagination, won't take you. You just have to learn how to go with it.


Where do you find your inspiration?

Join in the Inspiration Blogfest today at My Inner Fairy.

26 comments:

  1. Inspiration for characters or places come from anywhere for me. But the important inspirations, the deep dramatic conflicts, always come from the personal experience of my life or those of people close to me. Listening to others can be a handy writing skill.

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  2. People watching is my favorite way of picking up ideas for secondary characters. Or scrolling around on Tumblr. Lots of inspirational pictures there.

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  3. That's so true, Margo. Listening, and also eavesdropping on public transport!

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  4. Steph, I'll need to check our Tumblr. I'm an avid people watcher, but try not to look too creepy about it...

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  5. OH my, we must be on the same wavelength! I was JUST gonna write a post asking this same question :D (ps I love the billboard!) So, thanks for sharing where you get YOURS! I love that kid already.

    I find mine with music. I'll be listening (anything from movie themes to classical to pop to electronica), minding my own business, and visions start playing in my head. Then I start asking myself questions: the who, the what, the why.

    Scenery also does that for me, too.

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  6. I agree with Margo, but I do get inspiration for characters from real people too. In fact, a lot of my characters started out based on real people (either in appearance or personality. Sometimes-but rarely- both) before they take on a personality of their own. People watching is always fun. I find myself doing it when I'm waiting for someone, or if I accidently overhear a strange comment.


    I love the picture, by the way :)

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  7. That would be a terrific inspiration to character- Thank you for participating!

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  8. John Le Carre once said he got one of his spy characters from seeing a man standing at a bar in an overcoat. Just that simple image, and all it conveyed, and he took it from there.

    Me, I borrowed the blonde check-out girl at Burger King. Couldn't have done it without her.

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  9. That's a great idea. I need to be more observant of the people around me so my characters aren't always the same. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  10. I've gotten characters from watching people, too. I enjoyed reading your inspiration.

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  11. Quirky characters are everywhere if we just look.

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  12. Hi,

    I'm a portrait person: love'em! Characters come alive in dream movies, and all I have to do is re-paint their story in words. ;)

    best
    F

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  13. I loved reading the story behind your character! Inspiration can come from unexpected places, can't it?

    Great pic. ;)

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  14. I've done that with people I've spotted on the street too. Sometimes a person will walk by that just fits a certain vibe you're going for and whammo, you've got the inspiration for a new character. Love it when that happens.

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  15. I'm pretty sure that was my kid you saw.

    My story inspiration comes from everywhere but I have awesome characters who are a part of my family so I don't have to go far for those.

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  16. Real life provides the best sort of inspiration!! I'm more moved by snippets of conversation I overhear (yep, on the subway, or the bus, or while sitting in a cafe...)(I LOVE writing in coffee shops!!).

    I'm also liking the sound of that kid! I may have to be inspired by him, too.

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  17. That's a great story. I also get inspired by really random and unexpected things/places. I came up with an idea just by looking at a sign in the dingy Toronto subway system. Another one by studying for Chemistry. Another one during my volunteer shift at the hospital. Inspiration is everywhere!

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  18. Thanks for all the comments, guys! I'm glad I'm not the only spy out there!

    @ GK, you're so right. Inspiration is everywhere.

    @MC, where do you pick up all the stuff you know about writers and their habits?

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  19. I love starting a story with a character. Great story.

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  20. Hey, that's great! I love how you added the penchant for checking his watch to your character - it's unexpected for a guy like him and I like that! Thanks for the inspiration!

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  21. Jen - I got that story from the Paris Review. I'm always reading interviews, 'cause author's habits fascinate me, and here's what he said:

    PR: You have a wonderful story about the germination of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

    LE CARRÉ: I was sitting alone in London Airport, minding my own business, when a very rough-edged, kind of Trevor Howard figure, walked in and sat himself at the bar beside me. He fished in his pocket, put down a great handful of change in heaven-knows-which currencies and denominations, and then said, A large scotch. Between him and the barman, they just sorted out the money. He drank the scotch and left. I thought I picked up a very slight Irish accent. And that was really all, but there was a deadness in the face, and he looked, as we would have said in the spy world in those days, as if he’d had the hell posted out of him. It was the embodiment, suddenly, of somebody that I’d been looking for. It was he, and I never spoke to him, but he was my guy, Alec Leamas, and I knew he was going to die at the Berlin Wall.

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  22. Oh man I wish I had known about this, I even wrote a post about inspiration, Crazy!

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  23. LOVE the sign...

    Great story about how you found your character. I also love to people watch and draw from many of the images I spot throughout my day. Whether now or later our brains are THE best filing cabinet.

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  24. MC, what;s amazing is how you can remember it all!

    Thanks Jen and Michael!

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  25. I am with Steph Schmidt--people watching gives me so many insights. Then I combine them with my own memories.

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  26. What a great story of inspiration.I love to people watch. That's the main reason I go to the mall. Thanks for sharing!

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