Inspirations from an Abandoned World

 

abandoned house in the woods
Abandoned house in the woods – from Abandoned World Facebook

I find inspirations in different places, in fact I got an idea for a new story just by seeing an advertisement for another book – and my story didn’t even relate to the title, or the topic of the book, but a single word triggered an idea and I was scribbling away notes in my little notebook for later.

Quite often I see memes on Facebook that talk about writers finding inspiration all over the place. And I believe that is true with every distracted look I give my friends in café’s; every half heard conversation I pass in the street and every time I watch a movie thinking “I would have done that differently, which means a whole different story, but…could I write that?”

I have recently started following some different groups and pages on Facebook (I’m trying to be more social) and one such following is the Abandoned World Magazine. They post amazing photos of all sorts of abandoned human creations, from castles, churches, buildings, villages, to amusement parks.

I find each photo inspires something:

  • An idea of a story
  • What it could have been before
  • What it could be in my current writing
  • Who would live there
  • Who could have lived there
  • Why it was abandoned

I find each image fascinating. But I’m sure there are images out there just as beautiful or inspiring. Street scapes and architecture could be what you need depending on what you write. Images from space and speculative art – like Deviant Art.

Where do you find inspiration?

Or where could you look if you lost it?

What to do when you’re not writing

When not writing begets not writing
Poor Orange Snoopy was too unwell to write too

Over the last few weeks I’ve been a bit worn out, to the point that my writing slowed right down and I spent far too much time beating myself up. Then I became so ill I was trapped in my bed for a week and there was nothing I could do about it.

It is really hard when you can’t write. Particularly when all you want to do is write.

Sometimes we need to take a break. And I can tell you I’m feeling much better for it, even if it was a forced break, despite being well behind in all my projects and even unable to post last week.

 

So, when I couldn’t write, what was I doing?

Firstly, I was sleeping because when you are sickly and run down that is the best way to recharge the batteries.

Secondly, when I could, I was reading. Not as much as I would have liked but more than I have had the chance to over the last few months. You can learn a lot from other people’s writing, not just entertainment and escapism (which are the main reasons I read).

Asking questions about what I have read helps to strengthen my own writing:

  • Why did I enjoy the book?
  • What was it about the characters that hooked me?
  • Why didn’t I like it?
  • Why did that scene/character/event frustrate/annoy/elate me?

In understanding what works or what doesn’t in other’s writing can only help.

I have also been reading more indie published books to see what others are doing and how well that appears to work.

 

When not doing sleeping or reading I was stretched out on the couch watching (binging on) a range of series and movies.

I love TV as it gives a very different story telling experience. Obviously it is much more visual. The setting jumps from the screen and slightest inflections by characters are very effective. I love these little visual clues and it is important to remember to include the details when writing.

One series I watched was based in China during the late 1700’s. The setting was amazing and I got a few ideas from the society and palace design for future stories.

 

I am more or less back to normal now, whatever normal might be. I’m watching my energy levels closely to ensure I don’t go downhill again. But the time out has given me the confidence that as frustrating as it was that I couldn’t write I was still able to feed my creative side and the muse continued to work away.

Where do ideas come from?

Where ideas come fromI had the chance to talk to a reader recently who, when she had me pinned in a car, asked where the idea came from for The Mark of Oldra. She asked some really good questions about where I got the idea for many of the features of Essawood, including how they lived.

It is little things that trigger a bigger idea for me. Usually in conversation; or watching people in café’s when I should be listening to my friends.

Many writers will say that you need to be observant. To always be watching.

I think that is part of it. Paying attention certainly helps.

But it is asking questions about what you see that I think leads to exciting ideas.

 

‘What if the eggs in the nest didn’t contain baby birds?’

So what would they be? What could they be? What comes from eggs? What doesn’t come from eggs but in another world could?

So you see there are lots of ideas just from a nest with eggs.

 

One writer mentioned the installation of a telephone box outside his house, but no phone was ever connected. He used to look out his window and wonder what it could be. Another suggested taking the everyday and making it something else. Could it look like a house but it isn’t?

 

But everyone comes back to the “what if…?” idea. And I do this when drafting story ideas.

What if red riding hood ate the wolf?

What if the witch was good?

What if Dorothy never made it to Oz?

 

This can be particularly useful with fantasy as anything can happen. Any little thing you notice could, with the right question, lead into something magical.

 

What could lie behind the loose brick in the school wall?

Why do two socks go into the machine but only one ever comes out?

What do the animals do when we are at work?

 

I could list a whole range of ideas for all sorts of items or scenes that I come across every day.

 

Try it yourself:

Take a picture, or an item and think about the what if’s.

Could it be a different colour, size, shape?

Could it be used for something very different? What if it did the opposite of what it does now?

Who could use it and why?

Is it a secret?

Should it be a secret?

How did it get to where it is?

 

Find your item and write your questions or take something you know and think about how it could be different and what that would mean for your world.

 

More examples include:

What if the queen was voted in?

What if the government system was different?

What if there were five gods and you got to sit down with them and chat when you go to church?

 

For those of you that are curious, this was the beginning of an idea that would one day become The Mark of Oldra:

I was reading an article about a writer and his amazing view of a forest from his writing desk. I looked up from the magazine, out of the window by my writing desk and along my not very exciting street (at the time) and I was disappointed. I wanted to live in the forest he described and the changes he saw over the seasons.

I closed my eyes and imagined looking over the forest in winter, with deep snow and bare branches. And I was surprised by a man stepping out from behind a tree. He was cheeky enough to wave and then disappeared.

That was my first meeting with Pira.

Before I knew it Gerry was running from the house to see who he was.

Their story grew from there and changed a bit over the writing of it. But whenever I got stuck I always asked Why? And What if?

Creative Exploring Time

My daughter exploring ruins
My daughter exploring ruins

One of my goals this year is to take more time to explore different creative ideas. But making that time can be difficult.

I have already found after only one week how exhausting being back at the day job can be, how it drains my energy and competes with my writing time. When you are tired it can be difficult to enjoy and fully utilise the writing time available. I find after a holiday that there is a ‘return to work shock’ as my body adjusts to full days doing day job tasks, such as meetings and long phone calls. That tiredness that creeps in can interrupt my creative thinking time and cloud the reason I need that time.

The last day alone before I headed back to work I spent at a day spa soaking and steaming, and then treated myself to a Chinese massage. It was a bit of a cheat because I should have been writing and I felt bad for wasting the day until I got into the pool. I had so needed the time to switch off, relax, and let my thoughts go where they liked.

It was worth the escape time. I came up with some new plot ideas, fixed some outstanding problems and even had some revelations and new story ideas and all in a few of hours of just spoiling myself.

I need to do this more often…just breath and allow the right words to filter in. Doing it while I allowed my body to relax was a bonus. I love the sauna and have discovered a new appreciation for the steam room and sitting back with my eyes closed no one interrupts or talks or asks about my day. I can let the stress and worry and general impurities run from my pores and allow my mind to wander.

I am often disappointed when I have to remind myself to breath. It adds to the stress in a strange way, should I have to remind myself so early in the year when I was so keen? Part of it is that I don’t want this year to slip away like others have and find that I haven’t achieved what I wanted.

Last year I marked off most of my goals. This year I have set myself some more challenges with some tighter deadlines. Allowing myself some time to let my creative mind find the answers is not slacking off but scheduling such time can be hard because you think it is.

I am amazed by what I can produce when I allow this creative thinking time. It is taking time out but in the long run I think it will make my writing stronger and me more productive as a writer. During my first week back I had a meeting a good two hours away (a long way in Tassie). The time alone in the car was used as my creative thinking time. Sometimes I spend my exploring time at the computer or with a notebook. It can be whatever you need it to be.

When could you fit in some time this week to sit back and let your mind wander? I would love to hear what you discover.