A few years back a friend of mine introduced me to Tim Urban and his Instant Gratification Monkey. Well, not his personal IGM of course (though you can catch a glimpse if you watch the TED talk) but the concept of why some of us procrastinate even to our detriment.
If you’ve never heard of the IGM or the Panic Monster, you should check it out because it’s hilarious. And scarily true. I’ve rarely met a creative person who doesn’t have a very active IGM.
After a busy day in the Orkneys visiting as many things on Mainland as possible, my travel buddy and I got on a midnight ferry to Aberdeen. It was a weird thing to go to sleep in one place and wake up in another! Made stranger by it having been cool and very wet on Mainland while we woke to amazing warm, sunshine in Aberdeen. For a moment we thought we’d been blown off course in the night!
Don’t you love their logo?
Coincidentally, we visited the Cairn that is the inspiration for the place thee heroine in Outlander timeslips… I can totally see why an author would find the place inspiring!
Between the castles, the standing stones and even a broch I have been geeking out on history…
I know I’ve talked about this before, but it’s been on my mind again after some of my bookclubbers asked me where the idea for the PAR came from. Considering my recent wordage was my excuse for not having read the book this time (!) I felt like I owed them a good answer. Luckily when it comes to the PAR the answer is easy…
I was watching a movie with a martial arts instructor who was a really interesting character, in love with a student, and I thought “that’s the kind of relationship I’d like to write”. This was partly his character in the movie, partly the idea of a relationship between two fighters and partly the extreme coolness of martial arts (I’m a teeny bit of a fan).
So my instructor became a sword fighter (because swords = cool). Then he needed something to be using the swords for (to fight beasties). Then he needed people to train (people surviving in a somewhat post-apocalyptic future earth). Then he needed a love interest I felt he’d fall crazy in love with (a highly experienced beastie fighter). Then I had to decide what kind of beasties and where they’d come from (accidental side effect of some research). Then I had to decide what the research was in aid of (finding a cure for a disease). Then I had to pick a disease and work out if it had caused the apocalypse or the beasties had (50/50). And then – the most fun part – I had to build an entire version of our Earth around the idea of an apocalypse with beasties.
Sounds simple when you lay it out like that, huh?
Funny thing is, Blurty had a similar start – a movie I was watching – but a totally different path and now it’s hard to see the origin point at all!
Last week I read a fascinating post about what happened when the power went out across and entire state for a number of hours and it struck me a wonderful source of information for anyone writing about some kind of large scale disaster. Below is my favourite bit, but click through to read the whole thing over at my friend Natalie’s blog:
Traffic ground to a halt as traffic lights went off, trains and trams coasted to a stop wherever their momentum could get them to, while our diesel trains had to stop because they didn’t have the electricity to run fans to remove the toxic fumes. People got trapped in lifts which either failed to execute their safety features, or had never been upgraded to include them.
We were warned to conserve our phone batteries, but what we didn’t expect was for the mobile phone towers to stop working after a few hours, most having only a 4-hour battery back-up, some obviously much less because two networks went off within a few hours. So the mobile phones we were saving battery on were useful then only as torches.
Kind of cool and also very scary.
A question that I’m sure every writer out there has been asked at some point is “where do you get your ideas from?” and I think it’s one that rarely leads to satisfaction for the asker.
When I answer that “I heard a conversation that got me thinking what if…” or “there was this scene in a movie that made me picture a world where…” or “I was watching a storm roll in and…” the asker still can’t see how that led to 100,000 words set in a completely made up world with talking snakes.
I think because what they’re really asking isn’t about the idea, but the inspiration.
To me, inspiration is the magical bit where visual (or other) stimulation causes bits of your brain to come up with an idea. For some people that’s just something their brain does naturally.
Of course, the asker’s disappointment can also arise because the writer tends to answer with the initial inspiration and idea when the finished novel might have evolved a long, long way from there. I think often with spec-fic – whether you started with a scene, a world element, a character, a story or a question – you do evolve away from that starting point, because you have to make up so much other stuff and that can shift the focus or bury that one idea.