If you’ve ever found yourself lacking inspiration, here’s a few ways to find it.
1. Read books. Not any book, a book you wished you wrote. This way, you might be inspired to write your own.
2. Music. Music inspires many to write. It enhances your brain waves and when you enhance your brain waves, who knows what will come out?
3. Cemeteries. Now why would I count cemeteries as a way to get inspired? Because they aren’t just a collection of dead people. Each inhabitant has his or her own life story. Consider the woman lying in a single grave while the rest of her family lies in a family crypt. What happened in that family to cause such a rift?
4. If you’re writing a novel set in the here and now, you won’t pay much attention to architecture. You’re bound by the constraints of what exists. But if you’re writing fantasy? The world is your oyster.
5. You may never feature a funeral or even death in your story. But knowing how death works within the world you’ve created is still important. It gives you an opportunity for world-building and character development.
6. Are you writing a contemporary novel set in your hometown? That’s okay. It’s still worth considering how your characters respond to death.
Think about these questions. Discuss them with writer friends to see what you come up with.
• What relationship do your characters have with death? Is it feared, accepted, or welcomed?
• Do characters grieve openly, or is death a cause for celebration? Do they grieve in private?
• Are wakes joyful parties, or somber occasions?
• What happens to your characters when they die? Are they buried, cremated, or subject to another burial practice like exposure?
• Do the dead come back? If so, in what form? (This is a great way to begin a short story or novel.)
• How would your characters feel to kill someone? Death can be a somber time of pain and loss. But it can also add dimension to your characters and plot. No one needs to die in your books for you to know how this element of your world-building works. And knowing how characters cope with, or react to, death gives you a better understanding of them.
Lastly, devise a range of plot points or find interesting opportunities for character growth. The approach your characters take towards death colors their outlook on life. That filters into other encounters and affects how they treat each other. They find their place in the world based on their understanding of death. You can explore this from the comfort of your nearest cemetery. Yes, once again, cemeteries. They’re an invaluable resource for character generation and world-building. Even sitting among the trees with your notebook, soaking up the peace and quiet, can boost your writing by creating mental space. But be respectful and who knows what you might find?
Sue Powers has a dazzling array of publishing credits. Among her favorites are New Millennium Writings, Another Chicago Magazine, Happy, Facets, The Writer’s Place, Funny in Five Hundred, Blue Lake Review and Samizdada. She has won some writing awards and been nominated for others.
Reminder: She’ll be teaching Writing the Short Story at Hershey High School in Arlington Heights September 5-October 17th, from 7 pm to 9 pm.