Sources of Inspiration

Posted: April 21, 2018 in Painting with Words

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I said it in my Instagram story, and I’ll say it again here: When I go to Heaven, I’m going to eat and watch TV all the time. Because the resurrected body will be perfect and won’t get fat.

Really, though. I wish I could get away with eating however much I want of whatever I want. I love food. I love feeling full. Being an absolute pig is my specialty. I actually lost about twenty-five pounds over the last four months because I stopped doing that, but boy let me tell you: It’s tempting.

ANYWAY…

I’ve been working on my novel for years. It’s almost stupid because I keep redoing chapters and altering ideas, never really coming close to finishing it. I guess it has to be perfect, otherwise it’ll drive me insane when I read it later. So, the question is, if you’re a writer like me, what’s the best way to improve your talent? I pose this question because I’d like to stop having to redo everythingwhen it’s not good enough.

The answer: Inspiration. Inspiration not only spawns ideas, it also improves your skills. It’s a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of deal.

Taking classes or participating in workshops are great for harvesting talent – that’s true – but I think the best thing you can do is learn from the works of others. As Stephen King put it, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

I want my book to have a little something for everyone. Actually, I want it to have a lot for everyone. I’ll be happy if it contains a ton of technical know-how for all the science lovers out there (like me), but I’ll also be happy if I manage to write the best romantic tale ever created. (Shoot for the stars, amirite?)

Thing is, guys, it’s hard to fit all that in one story. I don’t want to include science if I’m no good at making it interesting. If it’s got romance, by all means it needs to make you cry and laugh and emerge from the pages happy. For every aspect of the story, it’s got to be done right.

So, there are lots of fictional goldmines that I dig inspirational currency from. And taking the approach of learning from others’ works is not only the most useful thing a writer can do (really, it is), but it’s also enjoyable.

There’s a TV show I like called The Expanse. From it, I find inspiration to write action in a way that’s both ruthless and exciting. Action scenes cannot feel slow if they are to have the desired effect. The Expanse enables me to better visualize this before putting it to paper.

Leviathan Wakes is the book-version of The Expanse, an absolute masterpiece. It helps me remember to make the technical side of my story – all the sciency stuff – as raw and realistic as possible. I figure the science part of science-fiction ought to be as true to the universe as I can make it so the reader is fully immersed.

The Last of Us (see my review of it here) is a videogame that blew chucks of my soul straight out my backside. The amazing thing about it wasn’t so much the overall story as it was the father-daughter relationship between Ellie and Joel. Their story encouraged me to make the lives of my characters meaningful and their interactions deep. One of the marks of a great story is having relatable, likeable characters. Today, so many TV shows and movies neglect this, and folks wonder why nothing good comes out anymore. Contemporary writers tend to create stories that are dark, ugly, and depressing, usually sporting characters that hate each other and only care about themselves – and then they call it beautiful. Not me. My book is something I think you’re going to enjoy.

Last example. Mass Effect and Halo inspired a sense of adventure when I played them. Both of those games have you exploring alien ruins and extrasolar worlds. I just love it. I want the readers of my book to experience that too. I remember the first time I beat Mass Effect, I realized the adventure of my story wasn’t in-depth enough. At the time, it was about how aliens attacked earth, and then we attacked them back and won. Today, it’s much deeper and more complicated. As far as I know, my idea for the story is something that’s never been done before, and that makes it so exciting to write.

Those are my favorite examples. There’s so much to gain by partaking in the imaginations of others. If you’re the creative type, do it.

Before I go (I don’t even want to tell you how late it is), I will say there are some works you should not try to get inspiration from. A better way to put that might be to say there’s plenty of examples out there of what not to do. It’s important to be able to determine what’s good and what isn’t.

I won’t give you a list of what I think is bad. It’d be hilarious if I did though.

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