Sunday, January 16, 2011

Inspiration and the Story

Hello, everyone! This is my first blog entry at NN.
I have a question to pose. Is inspiration like a lightning strike or the slow burn of a candle. Or maybe the sputtering of a dying fire? For me, it can be all three, though I much prefer to have the blazing fire to the left.

Sometimes I’ll know exactly where an idea fits into a story, which then opens up whole new avenues I never considered--but love. You know the picture of this: a flurry of writing that leaves you smiling in contented accomplishment after your mad scribbling (or typing) ends for the day. Everything is bright, and shiny, and oh-so-clear.

Other times, my inspiration fizzles after a ‘great’ idea, leaving me with no clue as where to go next. Every word, every thought, has to be tugged out of me. At times like these, I can’t shake the feeling something is ‘off’ in my story, but what? It’s a niggling intuition that drives me nuts, made worse by the fact I can never quite put my finger on the problem. Does this mean my idea was bad? Not necessarily, but more than likely my lovely new plot point does need some tweaking. Back to the drawing board I go.

But inspiration often hits me in a more subdued manner, though, neither dazzling me with its brilliant light, or threatening to leave me teetering in the darkness. Words, paragraphs, and scenes slowly arrange themselves into a chapter. But I have to stop now and then to reevaluate if I’m still on the right track. Many times I am, but if I’m not, that same annoying intuition perks up.

I often wonder where writers find their ‘inspired moments.’ Standing in line at the grocery, walking the dog, or maybe through dreams? Do these ideas burn through their authors with the roar of a forest fire, inciting exhilaration and a need to get it on paper right now? Or is there a brief flash of insight and then…nothing? The sound of the music from an ice cream truck driving through the neighborhood can cause a whole new scene to pop into my head, while the most romantic of love songs does nothing for my creative muse.

Inspiration is my fickle friend, one that comes and goes at it pleases. Whenever this fair-weather visitor strikes, I know I better take advantage of it while it's burning steadily.

Some ideas start out slowly, only gaining momentum as we flesh them out--or fizzle away when we can’t quite see how they jibe with the rest of the story. Some arrive fully formed, as though inserted into our brains by some artificial intelligence or higher power. But however they come or leave, they have the power to add dimension to our stories.

What are your story inspirations?

Lisa Kumar

Fire: Image: xedos4 /

Smoking Candle: Image: Marcus74id /

Candle Flame: Image: Paul Brentnall /


Julie said...

Enjoyed your post.
MIne hit me from songs, stories in books, movies, and even conversations I'm having with others. But, strangely they happen most often when I'm driving in my car in silence. Just thinking about and planning my day when It hits me. Sometimes subdued and sometimes like a roaring fire.

Thanks for sharing!

Brenda said...

Sometimes ideas come to me out of the blue, fully formed. Other times a seed of an idea comes to me, and before I write anything down, I sit in silence and play the what-if game and allow that seed of an idea to sprout and grow. Sometimes it turns into a flowering bush, other times it dies.
Great post!

Lisa Kumar said...

Julie and Brenda, glad you liked the post! I second everything you two said. Inspiration can come from so many places--and when we least expect it. Those moments are often exhilarating, even if they pan out into nothing.

Sheri Fredricks said...

Hi Lisa - I like how you write that at times our ideas come as we flesh them out, gaining momentum as we go. I think that's how I start out. A flickering flame that finds fuel to ignite. Exercises to keep feeding the fire help me as well. Great first post! Congratulations on being a blogger for Tabby's Nocturnal Nights.

Katelyn Burton said...

Hi Lisa!

This is a really good post. I'm glad someone addressed inspiration and the many forms that it comes in. As for my own inspiration, it usually starts out like a slow burning candle. Whenever I get those rare explosion of flames they usually get doused out pretty quickly. I love the slow burning ones. They last the longest and usually develop over time.

Excellent post! I'll definitely be checking in :)

LJ said...

Lisa, I really liked this post. My ideas come at odd times. When I get them, I run with them, but like you sometimes I hit a point where it seems there is nothing else I can do to help it blossom. I have a friend that starts asking me questions and the ideas seem to pop out of me then to get me back on track.

Penelope said...

Great post Lisa,

My experience is a lot like yours, it can be any of the above. Of course, if it's a lightening bolt revelation, I'll be somewhere I can't write it down - like in the shower.


Anna L. Walls said...

Very nice post. Love the pictures. I'm here from Ambitious Writers on Goodreads by the way. I get most of my ideas from dreams and then I sprinkle in things from my life, here and there, not that anyone would recognize such things unless they knew more about me. haha Hope the inspirations strike you often.

Lisa Kumar said...

I love reading everyone's responses. Keep 'em coming!

I'm glad to hear that you all can relate with my tale. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and I find it heartening to know that others experience the same ups and downs. It's a kind of validation of sorts.

authorinprogress said...

My ideas pop out when I'm walking, or today, in yoga, when I was supposed to be in shavasana I was thinking about a particular sentence that needed to be tweaked...some days I feel like I'm being led, other days, every sentence needs to be re-written...On days when everything drags I try to walk away or work on some other writing until I know where I'm going again..I think everything you mentioned in your blog is how it is!

Anonymous said...

Hey Lisa -

My inspirations usually strike a bit like lightening but I often find myself having to wrestle them into the right shape to fit a good story line. Often I have an idea, get it all down and then realize some of it is all wrong but some of it is awesome. Such is the case with my current WIP. The first draft is barely recognizable in the second except of the major details which were good and stuck around. Such as in this case, I get inspiration from earlier inspirations.