Inspiration is a funny thing. Most of the time, it comes and goes with the same frequency of seeing a double rainbow after flipping a coin and getting heads three times in a row. If you try to inspire yourself really hard, you’ll think of something. If you don’t think about it and focus on something else, you’ll eventually think of something.
What inspires me the most is absorbing new/familiar stories. Movies, television shows, books, video games…if it’s got a great story, I’ll enjoy it. For a long time now, my ‘writer’s brain’ tends to be active while I’m experiencing someone else’s story. I’ll think to myself, “What if that character made a different decision?” or “What if this monster the hero faces is actually the servant of a darker power?” I planned a Sci-Fi novel series based on a single Doctor Who episode’s premise, and a Dark Fantasy series by wondering how a fantasy world would work where all the magic and gods have a Sci-Fi origin.
When it comes to fiction, I tend to ‘fill in the gaps’. If a movie or television show makes a storytelling mistake, in my opinion, or if it goes in a direction I don’t care for, then I think of a story with those character archetypes where it follows the direction I find more appealing. If a superhero show features the hero nobly rejecting the villain’s offer to join their cause for the greater good, then I might write a fantasy story where the hero becomes the dark god’s champion to save his friends. If I choose to write a superhero story where those exact characters make different decisions, that’s fanfiction.
Speaking of fanfiction, I have long believed it is a fantastic resource for writers. I’ve written more than my fair share, based on my tendency to ‘fill the gap’. Game of Thrones story where the ending doesn’t suck? Working on it as we speak. Avatar: The Last Airbender fic that features a Fire Nation main character? Check. Fanfiction is a fantastic way for writers to master their craft. Working with interactions and character arcs within an established world can help give inspiration for original works like novels or short stories or even screenplays. Writing fanfiction allows you to master the little intricacies that make great stories tick.
I’m of the opinion that all writers create the kind of stories they, themselves, want to read. That’s how Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings and the Legendarium, and George R.R. Martin wrote A Song of Ice and Fire because he wanted to create a fantasy world without the familiar tropes he became sick of seeing. Even the greats think of writing through this lens. My version of this is ‘filling the gap’, working with character and narrative archetypes and moving them through a story the way I find appealing. So in a way, what inspires me is to react to the stories around me. By thinking of how something could be different, I imagine something that becomes unique to me as a story lover and as a writer.
Inspiration is a tricky thing. It comes and goes. Some people use history or mythology as the basis of a story. Some go outside and people watch to create new characters. Some decide to subvert the familiar tropes of a story genre. Whatever your method, what inspires you allows you to make a story that’s wholly yours. And every new story adds a bit more light and joy into the world.
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