By Pat Cunningham
Inspiration and I have a love/hate relationship. I’d love to have more of it and hate that I don’t. It’s especially tough when you’re slogging through a story and you hit a wall and you call on your muse for a little help and she’s sprawled on the couch watching game shows and you’re left to fend for yourself. This tends to happen right before a deadline. Makes day jobs seem like heaven by comparison.
When the lightning strikes, it’s magic. I once had a character’s entire backstory come to me while I was vacuuming. Full-blown story ideas have hit while I’m driving without making me swerve off the road. On those days everything works and everything’s golden. You sit at the keyboard, or take up the pen, and the words just pour out by themselves. That’s when the muse redeems herself.
The rest of the time … well, you know how it is. I can go for weeks without a hit. I fly my kite and key through my thoughts and wait for the lightning to strike, but the skies remain clear and cloudless and the muse is off working on her tan. The words dribble out of the pen and lie on the paper like sludge and glower up at me and go, "What?"
I wonder how many writers live like this? Or with its opposite? Stephen King goes to the grocery store, imagines dinosaurs in the aisles, goes home and writes The Mist. He must live in an inspirational strike zone. Me … too often I find myself in Death Valley, where rainfall can be measured in drops and lightning strikes are rare.
Not much you can do in a case like that except fire up the generator and start cranking, and generate your own lightning.
Over the years I’ve discovered I get the bulk of my ideas while I’m already working on something. The act of writing itself becomes the key that draws the lightning down. A character’s offhand remark can spark a sequel, or even a series. Since I’m a pantser, I write myself into a lot of corners, yet somehow, if I keep at it, I find I can write myself out of them. If I work at creating the sparks, the lightning hits on its own.
Just recently I was working on a werewolf story. Out of nowhere the lupine protag starts telling this anecdote about some relative who entered herself in a dog show as a joke, and won. "Hey," I thought, "that sounds like a story by itself. What do you think?" I asked my muse.
"Whatever," she said, and went back to watching Wheel of Fortune.
Nice work if you can get it. For me, it’s back to the keyboard.
REMEMBER: HUGE IMPORTANT NEWS!!!
Pat’s short story the ‘SNAKE IN THE GLASS’ will be featured in the #7 issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, NEW YEAR’S DAY edition.
How wintery cool is that for all those hibernating serpents? And kewl for all the humans who want to curl up with a great story this winter.
Note: Pat, wonderful insights about inspiration and similar to my own. Yep, you're driving along and a key piece you need for the next chapter hits right between the eyes. And no, thank goodness, I’ve never run off the road or caused an accident...yet.
And, boy oh boy, do I know about those corners!
Pat, I love that dog show werewolf idea!!!
Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~ http://savannakougar.com ~