Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On Inspiration

When I first started writing, a lot of my inspiration for plot and character came from music. I wrote in a previous post about statements people have made in interviews that stuck with me and turned into scenes (or whole books as the case may be). Well, music is amazingly inspirational to me as well, and the muse strikes during odd, unexpected songs and at absolutely random times.

Like every time I hear "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd I think of MC in Book 4--where he's going to be and his state of affairs in that opening scene. The sounds of that song are driving across the Causeway under an overcast sky watching the drifters fish from the roadside and the occasional shrimp boat pulling out for a day's work.

If there was one song in the whole world that I could get credit for writing, I'd want it to be that one.

Other inspirations? My MC in Debut Novel came to me the day I was thinking about my friend Amy Wemyss. MC's named after one of my daughters' school friends, but MC's best friend was originally named Amy.

Amy was one of my first friends when we moved here, and we always had such a fun time running down to the beach with the kids, swapping musical favorites, chatting, spending time together during the days while the boys were at work. Then after Katrina, her superstar husband (postal inspector) got transferred to Maryland for some big fat promotion. It was all very cool for them, but it left me high and dry.

Sound familiar, test readers?

Of course, all my characters are just amalgams of all the cool, interesting people I know and have known in my life. And some I've only heard about or interviewed over the telephone...

But back to music. When I was writing Book 2, I was listening to "Defying Gravity" a lot. I thought of the picture--black and white--and the connotations of manipulating for the "good"; the idea of fighting against negative stereotypes, only to lose in the end and go with one's basic urges.

I'd go jogging and "Thunder Road" would come up on my iPod, and the story of the song led me down another rabbit hole and after another potential story twist. I liked Springstein's image of the scruffy miscreant persuading the past-prime love interest to run away with him, especially the line, "Come, take my hand. We're riding down tonight to case the Promised Land."

Who would say that and why? What would happen if she said OK? What would happen if she didn't? There's so much raw emotion in that song.

So that's a little of how I do it. I don't outline. I don't draw out elaborate diagrams and character sketches. I just go into my head and follow these characters where they lead, and I tell you, by the end of Debut Novel, it was hard to keep them contained.

As Jimbo used to say, "Good stuff."

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