Wednesday, December 9, 2009


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 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? 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?


  1. Lovely images, especially that of Wesley :-)

    I suppose I do the same, read what I can, look at stuff that interests me, waiting for that spark to catch in my mind - like trying to light a fire with flint and steel.

    It doesn't always work the way one wishes though... here I am, reading Tolkien, listening to Runrig, trying to learn Welsh - why can't I write a novel that takes place in Britain, in any time period? What am I doing wandering around Spain and France in 1492? How does this happen to me? :-)

  2. Hey Deniz - In hindsight, Wesley was a big inspiration for me in more ways than his appearance. I love how outside of the Fire Swamp he shouts "Death first!" in response to giving up Buttercup and living without her. Sigh. I found Archer thinking along those lines as well.

    Hehe. Maybe you're fighting it too much -or maybe your inner Brit does not want to play at the moment. :)

  3. Ah, you should see how many sites I have book marked, and how many images I have a page-shot of! All of them give me inspiration, whether they be sites about the Chateau Compiegne in France, or the Mutter Museum and all its medical oddities in the US ... it all goes into that compost heap in my brain!

  4. That's a good point - I do try not to read books set in my own time frame, until I've written at least 3/4 of the story and am well into research; I want to try to have my own ideas as much as I can without being tainted, as it were :-)
    I found out about that POD company, AuthorHouse in just such a way - DH knew my story was set in ancient Ephesus and came across this book "Medina, Maiden of Ephesus" (or something) in the bookstore (how it got into a real bookstore I have no idea). So I read it and... oh my... the entire time I was marking it up in pencil I kept asking myself how such a badly written book could ever have been published. I mean, it was *that* bad, not just "not my style" bad. About as bad as the stuff I was writing when I was 12 years old, say. And I could tell the author had done *no* research whatsoever, cos even me, with my minimal forays into research, knew a lot more about certain things than she did! Google didn't turn up very much at all until I typed in the words "AuthorHouse" and then realised... oh! she wasn't published! she was "published" :-)

  5. Kristen,

    Cool pics!

    My inspiration comes from everywhere. I think I'm probably most inspired by sights and sounds around me. I write contemporary, so "research" for me doesn't involve trolling art fact, I wouldn't say I'm ever 'visually' inspired. Mostly I cull from my own life experiences...things that happen to me, or that I see going on around me. I'm a total cannibal. Always looking for a laugh in the things around me.

    I also get a great deal of inspiration from dreams. Now whether or not one of my dream stories will ever be finished, as usually it's just a fragment of a scene that I remember, is yet to be seen. :) But it all gets the wheels grinding... that's the important thing. (g)


  6. Jen-- there is nothing greater than life experience, that's for sure. I'm so apt to be sucked in by conversations and happenings of those around me that I have to restrain myself -cuz, it could be construed as, you know, creepy. LOL.

  7. Rachel -ah, I'm weeping here because even though I've gotten myself a nice new laptop, ALL of my bookmarked sites are stuck on the old computer. And DH tells me that I can't transfer them from different web browsers. Does this mean I have to start all over again? NOooooooo!!

    But isn't it wonderful when looking at something like, oh, I don't know... a nineteenth century bone saw can spark a whole scene? :)

  8. Kristen,

    I have XMarks on my computer at home. It started out as FoxMarks, but they claim it will work on more than just Firefox... You might check with Marte on Books & Writers--she's the one that told me about it.

    I'm at work, or I'd check the details. I know it saves your bookmarks online for you, so that when your computer has a nervous breakdown (or my kid somehow manages to delete Everything even though she doesn't read yet) it should be able to recover for you. Of course, I didn't find out about XMarks until it was too late for me...

    Best to you and yours!

  9. About transferring bookmarks... I saved mine off Internet Explorer at work as a .htm file, emailed them to myself and then imported them to Google Chrome at home. Which browsers are you working with Kristen? How come you can't do the same? If un-tech-savvy-me can do it, I'm sure it's possible :-)