Finding Inspiration: the Where's Waldo of Writing
Every author will be asked at some point in their career, "How do you even know where to start?"
It's a great question. Plenty of people want to write a story and there are lots of tutorials on how to do it, but something has to get you started. Here are some tips that have helped me get started in my own projects through the years:
Finding inspiration advice #1: Write what you want to read.
This is how it was for me with Demons at the Doorstep. I had always wanted to write a magic story, but throughout my childhood, the world of witches and magical creatures was dominated by Harry Potter. Even though I wasn't a fan of the series myself, it took me a long time to come up with an idea that was far enough removed from it that I could really get the story off the ground.
Back in 2016, I thought about what magic might look like in our world - could I actually make it semi-plausible? If there was a witch, for example, living in Toronto, what kind of threats would she come up against? That was how the first chapter of Demons was conjured. It was that first chapter as an inciting incident that inspired the entire book, and consequently the series. And because I wanted something that was a fun, fast-paced, and a great escape read, that was what the Wicked Conjuring series became.
Finding inspiration advice #2: Write everything down.
You never know what random thought, idea, or nugget of information might inspire a story, so it is really important to write it down. When it comes to my pirate fantasy project, I was inspired by a dream! In the dream, there was a ship of pirates that snuck onto this incredible island that stuck out of the ocean like a severed thumb, kidnapped/liberated a woman from the island, and then escaped.
This dream was so vivid that I had to write it down. In that very first draft, however, the story was a romance between the male captains and the woman. I only wrote about 30,000 words until I got stuck and couldn't figure out where the story was going. I thought there was potential, especially in the world-building, but there wasn't enough substance in the original idea that inspired me enough to make a full novel out of it at the time.
Finding inspiration tip #3: Ask yourself what you can flip.
While a foundation of an archetype can be a super helpful starting point, finding ways to put your own spin on things is what is going to help you build inspiration and inspire your story. In my case, I changed the pirate captain to a woman. It was that choice that started a cascading reaction of new ideas, character backstories and connections, and new points of conflict. It made me excited about the story again, and now I'm on my second major rewrite as I keep asking myself how I can do things just a little differently.
But as I mentioned at the start, it is different for every author. And as such, I have one more piece of advice.
Finding inspiration tip #4: Look for the story behind everything
You may be surprised by what can serve as inspiration. Sometimes just a sentence, a moment, or a single memory, can be the inciting incident for a greater story. For me, it was a Tik Tok! Yes, a 15-second video was what served as inspiration for my Magical Library project.
The video was a POV video (a short scene acted out) where a young woman appeared in the frame and looks at the camera, holding a book. In the background, you can hear shouts and pounding footsteps of someone chasing her. She then hands the book she was holding to the person behind the camera and winks, saying "Hold onto this for me, will you?" And then she jumps out of a window with the magic of a green screen.
Immediately I wanted to know who this person was, what was the book that she had stolen, and who was she running from. What building was she escaping from, and who was behind the camera? These questions got my brain spiraling, and from there the ideas for my Magical Library story began to form.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. The challenge is that we are often so hard on ourselves as creatives that we dismiss an idea before seeing its full potential. Not all inspiration will turn into a story, but it may be one tangent that inspires another, which inspires another, and then that becomes a story. So by writing down all of your ideas, asking questions of that spark, and looking at it from different perspectives, you will eventually see something take shape that you can dig into. And have fun exploring it. Finding that story idea is only the beginning, after all