Inspiration. Were do you get yours? How do you incorporate it?
I'm a little blue this week. I've just sent my revised manuscript to my agent and now I have no writing projects on the table. For me, that's not a good place to be. Today I found myself thinking back to this time last year when (oddly enough) I also had nothing on my plate. This is when you'll find me trolling the internet -a lot. (g) Killing time isn't always what it seems. Killing time by researching, looking at art, listening to music can launch an entire book.
Some of my favorite haunts for inspiration are various online art archives. Getty images and artmagic.com are two great ones.
The idea for West of the Moon had just started bumping around in my brain -I had the general idea and the characters (unnamed at this point), my first scene with heroine X meeting Hero Y in a dark alley- when I came across this portrait:
Sir Francis Dicksee's Miranda. Now she didn't look exactly like the character in my mind but it was close enough. The image stuck. As did the name. Thus heroine X became Miranda.
The portrait was so inspiring, that I ended up having Miranda meet him at the Royal Academy of Art. :)
But what of Hero Y? My man in the black mask
No, not him -though the costume is very close. My man in black. Lord 
I couldn't keep up with Lord . I knew I wanted to use a name that meant fighter -or some close connotation. I also wanted the name to be easy to type. Confession here: I always look for easy to type names for my mc's. Total laziness on my part. Anyway, the name needed to be a last name as well, as I'd be calling the guy Lord ... a lot of the time.
Best source for me? http://www.behindthename.com/ I love that you can search for name meanings as well as search under a whole slew of categories. Almost immediately, I found the name Archer. I loved this name because it worked as both a first and last name, and well, frankly, I found it *cough* quite sexy *cough*.
So Archer. Lord Archer. Lord of what, precisely? This resulted in hours, hours of online searches about the English peerage system -shades of Rachel's research mania? (g) Then I scored pay dirt by simply googling "Lord Archer". And found, a real life Lord Archer, second baron of Umberslade. Huzza! Better yet, the family line died out... oh, right about the time MY Lord Archer was born. Plus, I now have this cool ancestral home to play with: Umberslade Hall. Which, btw, you can by a flat in should you be interested.
Using pictures, music, reading stories not your own can get the juices flowing in ways you never thought. This process would help me time and again in the months to come. Looking at pictures of London, old hansom cabs, Victorian jewelry, even watching a few PBS episodes of Sherlock Holmes, all helped to shape my fictional world. Killing time online put the foundations in my story. And did I mention the historical clothes?
All those slinky dresses. And the hats? How could I not fall for the 1870's? Hmm... maybe I ought to go trolling again...
So what about you? What stirs your creative juices? How does inspiration find you?