Inspiration strikes every writer
at different times and in a wide variety of ways but what do you do if
you want to write but you don't know what to write about?
First, relax. That problem has stumped more than one talented writer and
the surest way to stifle your muse is to worry too much about coming up
with the "perfect" idea.
Plots do not exist in a vacuum. They need characters to evolve and grow.
Those characters need conflict or problems to cope with throughout the
story. So if you're not sure what you want your story to be about
consider 'who' you would like your protagonist to be.
The new or insecure writer may want to use a main character that they
can relate to and understand. For the more experienced writer, try
tackling someone you donít identify with and do some research into
who/what your protagonist is. The world you place them in should be one
you know or find interesting enough to research or create.
For the beginning fantasy or science fiction writer who is feeling
overwhelmed with the creation stage of the story, he/she might want to
use existing worlds (not copyrighted ones unless you're sticking to
fan-fiction which isn't publishable for money). World building can be a
daunting task and if it frightens instead of inspiring you, hold off on
attempting it until you're a little more confident in your work.
Building on a basic plot idea can be fun if you allow yourself to relax
and enjoy the process. Let's take a basic murder mystery and consider
the ways to build the story. In its simplest terms you know a murder is
going to occur. Where do you go from there? Think about the parts of the
story and work out from the one that inspires you the most. If you like
working with characters then decide whom you're going to start with, the
victim, the murderer or the person who solves the crime.
Physical traits and limitations
Health Ė mental and physical
Where does your murder take place?
What geographic location? Which country?
Rural or city?
Mountains, desert, or on a boat in the middle of a lake or ocean?
Patriotic or religious beliefs
To hide information
For the thrill of it.
Motivation can be the strongest element of your plot. Our characters
must always have reasons for behaving the way they do, even if that
reason is simply because what they're doing makes them "feel" good. Take
all the information you've decided upon about your character. Examine
their personality and work from there. Have fun with the story. Most of
us have a person in our lives that we wish would go away. Sometimes
using that person's personality for your victim can provide all the
inspiration you need to get started. Some writers will recoil at that
suggestion. For those I recommend looking at the places they like to
visit or at their own hobbies and jobs. Dick Francis has written several
best selling novels based on his prior experience in the horse racing
Most of this article may feel like very basic for an experienced writer
but even the most prolific writers can occasionally find themselves
stuck for an idea, be it for a novel, short story or even the next scene
in their work in progress. One of the best ways to work through writer's
block or lack of inspiration is to look at the things that inspire and
interest you and then begin to ask questions about the person and
situation you would like to visit as you write.
Copyright 2003 Tina Morgan