Monday, January 8, 2018

Some Thoughts On Inspiration

In what was a first for me, a reader reached out to me through my website to tell me that he was a fan and to ask where I got my inspiration from. I wrote back with an answer, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked my answer, so I've decided to reproduce it here.

Inspiration... So, to my way of thinking, storytelling is a marriage of three elements: you need a good character, you need a plot/setting to place that character in, and you need some kind of external conflict that mirrors the character's internal conflict. Characters are usually inspired by people I know or by characters in other media--I'll take a handful traits from different individuals and mix them together. I usually will have a guiding philosophy in mind for this person. It won't be obvious in the story, but it helps the writing to be able to say fundamentally, quirks aside, this individual is a humanist/hedonist/narcissist/etc. Story/setting are the weird ideas that occur to you a dozen times a day. What if people could teleport to the grocery store, etc. If I stumble across an even remotely interesting notion, I'll jot it down for later reference, so at any given time I've got a list of fifty-ish ideas I can mull over. Most of these never become stories and the list does get pruned from time to time. Finally, I consume a lot of news and non-fiction, so that gives me a thematic basis for the conflict of a story. I'm always on the lookout for interesting philosophical/economic/moralistic notions that can be translated into a smaller individual conflict.

There's also a lot of personal taste in there. I like redemptive heroes more than virtuous ones. I like optimistic heroes over dour ones. I like anything about AI or time travel. Once I have a workable mix, I'll flesh out the plot and get writing, but that process is less about inspiration than practice. And it doesn't always happen as cleanly as I've described above--sometimes I just start running with a plot because I'm excited about the idea and I figure out the character and themes on the fly. But overall that's the basic process.

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