Six months ago, I read a book set in Carcassonne which inspired me to visit the medieval French town that had featured so heavily in the story.
Walking around the Cité, weaving in and out of the narrow cobbled streets and scaling the long walls, it was easy to see how the author had drawn inspiration from such a historical period and place.
The whole city reeked of a story begging to be told, based on real life events that historians today are still struggling to unearth. By reading the informative signs, imagining today’s sweeping view as it would have been hundreds of years ago, and stepping on ground that had been trodden on by people centuries before, I found myself wondering about the story of this medieval Cité and those who lived there.
Inspiration rarely just pops up unexpectedly. In most cases, it’s triggered by personal experiences—whether that’s a trip, a TV show or the simple observance of a stranger in the street.
Browsing the internet, in the hope that you’ll stumble across the next bestselling plot, rarely yields good, original results. The reality is that those storylines are available for the world to see, and hence you won’t be creating anything new—unless, of course, you put a huge spin on an existing cliché, which transforms it into a completely new idea.
Falling back onto over-used clichés isn’t always the safe option. These may be popular, but you’ll find yourself struggling as a small fish in a big pond, competing against thousands of stories similar to your own and hoping that readers will, for some reason, choose yours rather than a different one.
Once again, it all boils down to inspiration. If you’ve not invented that plot, will you be inspired to continue the story past the initial few chapters? Will you possess the same level of passion for your creation? When it comes to drafting out the more intricate details of your plot, where will you pull that inspiration from?
Needless to say, as writers, we all work differently. Some of us might be able to pluck ideas out of thin air, whereas others struggle to build a plot without a solid foundation. Here are three tips that may help when you don’t know where to turn next:
Carry a notebook around with you
You don’t know when inspiration will strike—that pretty house you walked past, the loved-up couple in front of you on the bus, or that thought-provoking song you heard on the radio
Don’t dismiss an idea just because it doesn’t follow the genre you’d usually work with—play around with it and see where it takes you
Try new things
Push yourself outside your comfort zone, not just with writing, but in your day-to-day life, too. Starting a new hobby or saying yes to a scary opportunity might be the key that gives you insight into a whole new world
Do you ever struggle with inspiration or maintaining an ongoing story? How do you cope?