Monday 27 February 2017

Drawing Inspiration From Life - The Creative Process


Something a lot of people will ask you when you're a writer is: where do you get your ideas? How do you know what's a good idea and what's a bad one? What inspires you? I've always had a simple answer for those questions and I think a lot of people wonder if it's just an answer, or if it's true. I'm here to say that for me at least, it's true. Life inspires me. From other pieces I've written you know that I draw a lot of my inspiration from things happening around me, to me, or to friends and family. From books I read, and stories I hear and films I watch, and so one. And while that's perfectly fine and normal, as a writer you have to be careful that you don't fall into the trap of drawing too much inspiration from other people's stories, life events and the like.

Having said that, there's nothing wrong with life - yours or other people's - inspiring you. It's what you do with that inspiration that matters. Taking a random stranger and turning them into a character that matches their body and facial features is one thing. You'll also be rounding that character out with aspects that probably won't match up with the real life person's personality and all of that. Taking someone you know and making them a character is a completely different thing. Especially if that character has all their personality traits as well as their physical appearance. It's possible to do it, but it is frowned upon for obvious reasons. That's not the same as taking someone's name with their permission and using that for a character. I've done that before, as a way to thank a friend who supported me through the beginning of my writing journey.

The key word there though is: permission. The other thing to remember is that it was just their name. The character I created was nothing like them, nor did they share any other traits. They knew their name was being used and they were very pleased with it. I think the rule of thumb when doing this, is just that, asking permission. After all a name does not make a character. It's what else goes into it that draws the clear distinction.

People will often ask me about finding ideas and my answer is always the same. That the ideas come from so many different places, but are formed using a healthy sense of imagination. Though considering I write about crime, death and murder, some may consider that to be less than healthy! My point is, that as a writer, you will most likely also have that sense of imagination. I've always been good at making up stories and while becoming an author wasn't a lifelong dream of mine, now that I'm doing it, I can't imagine what else I could've done. Some of that has to do with the way my life has turned out. I was going to be a doctor before my health got in the way, but then when faced with the prospect of doing nothing with the rest of my life, those sparks of imagination lit a fire in my mind and I've not really looked back since.

Life has been a source of inspiration for so many creative outlets. Whether that's the author's own life or someone else's. Think about it, books, movies, plays, art, music and the like have many cases of telling a story because of what happened to someone, something, or an event that took place in the world. And in capturing the imagination of the creators themselves, many pieces of work have been born that have defined cultures, time periods, events and such like. So when I say that life inspires me, I know I'm not alone there. It's just about captivating that moment and turning it into what you see in your head.

So when people ask: where do you get your ideas? My answer may seem simple, or like a brush off but it's not. It's just that I look at the world with my writer's eye and see things that can come from the seemingly mundane task of people watching from my office. I think having a healthy imagination makes you view the world differently. And it's something I am very proud and pleased to have. So when you're wondering how to create your next story, remember that life itself can be the source of so much fiction, even with a grain of truth. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

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