Sunday, November 18, 2007

Where To Get Inspiration

One of the opportunities afforded by this convention is the chance to talk to people and hear their stories. This is why you need to carry around your little notebook: because if you're ever stuck for a character motivation or a character type, the best place to refer is real life. That doesn't mean you have to lift a story whole cloth exactly as it was told, but you can take elements of it. There are usually a couple key elements to a good story that make you think, "wow, someone really did that." Use that with your own characters. One of my problems is that I try to make my characters too realistic, when a few elements of outlandishness are usually helpful in making someone memorable. And outlandishness is usually a characteristic of a good story, one people will go out of their way to tell you.

Also, think about that when telling stories of your own. What makes the stories from your past interesting? Do you have any stories that were *almost* a disaster? How would things have gone if they had turned into disasters? What odd behavior did you see in the people around you--like that ticket agent who was clearly having a bad day when she harassed you about the minor issue with your itinerary, or the girl at the Starbucks who took three tries to get your order right, and told you that she just wasn't processing English correctly that day?

All of these elements are real. Write them down, remember them, refer to them, use them. I often take small occurrences that stuck in my mind from life and use them as textural details in my stories--and you can take the small occurrences that form the basis of other people's stories and use them as well. The more sources you can draw from, the more textured and real your stories will feel.

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