Dianna Sinovic, former President of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group, offers her unique perspective on finding inspiration for stories.
The scariest moment is always just before you start. – Stephen King
Even if you don’t write horror, you most likely can relate to King’s sentiment. Your fingers are poised over the keyboard, ready to write that first sentence – as the minutes tick by. Or you’ve put off starting that story one more day because the blank screen stares back at you, waiting, like one of King’s monsters, giving you pause.
Take a step back even farther in the writing process. What serves as your inspiration? Do you wait for inspiration to arrive? Or do you plunge into a project, not know where you are going, but trusting that the story will bubble up as you proceed?
Each author has his or her own muse. It might be a place, a meal, the words you overhear on the train in to work. You may take time each day to meditate, allowing your creative side to join you. You may find ideas while out on your morning walk. The news may spark an idea, a what-if-it-had-turned-out-this-way-instead thought.
Or you may turn to your favorite authors’ works for recharging your creative juices. John Irving, speaking several years ago at a writers conference, said that when he got stuck at a point in his story, he would open up anything by Charles Dickens and read for a while. He found Dickens’ descriptive skill particularly motivating.
One source that I resurrected last month for inspiration was Webster’s Collegiate. Several years ago I started a blog project in which a circle of friends each gave me a word starting with a certain letter of the alphabet. I had to create a piece of short fiction – flash fiction, in a way – that used as many of the words as possible.
C (for continental, chiaroscuro, and captive) ended up being about a lone hiker along the Continental Divide who slips off a steep trail and ends up with his foot wedged between rocks.
G (for garrison, genuine, and groan) became a sci-fi scene of an alien species interacting with troops stationed on a distant planet.
I was surprised at how the words given to me almost immediately opened up into a snippet of a scene that I could run with. (I don’t think I had ever used the word aubergine in a story before, or quince.)
This spring, I was brainstorming ideas for a new story and the dictionary plopped itself onto my desk. I thought, Why not? It worked before. I randomly opened its pages, closed my eyes, and jabbed a finger at the paper. Five times, five words. A story settled itself around me, shifting and shimmering into focus as the minutes passed. I closed the dictionary, poised my fingers above my keyboard, and began to write.
Where do you find inspiration?
Dianna Sinovic writes and blogs from Upper Bucks County, where she is currently working on a novel about a missing brother.