Thursday, January 12, 2012

Inspiration Inspired

Mark Twain once told a reporter he loved taking notes during dinner parties. Notes not of business ventures, directions, or financial advice, but of stories, gossip, and banter. From real life came Twain's inspiration. I think we'd have gotten along famously.

I write young adult and tween fiction because those are the people I spend most of my time with. I listen to their conversations as I chauffeur them from practice to game to friends' houses. Their lives become animated in the stories they tell of their school days and overnights. If that isn't enough to inspire the most fantastical fiction, their imaginations are. Simply asking a ten year old what type of adventure they'd like to take or what world would they make brings setting and plot inspiration in heaps.

Of course there's nothing like people watching to add creativity to one's characters. Last summer I spent four hours with a girl, no older than twenty, maybe twenty-two, as she tattooed my ankle. (That's a tale for another telling.) She talked about her gruff grandfather, a former naval officer, who thought colored tattoos where not of the same caliber as the old greenish ones. Her voice softened as she spoke of her mother and quickened when she mentioned her boyfriend. And the lack of any fatherly stories spoke volumes. She became the inspiration for a dystopian heroine in my current work in progress.

If all else fails, there's always the grocery store. So many characters, so many products with their miracle cures and what-if invoking promises that it would be hard not to find inspiration for someone, something, some adventure within. So where do I find the inspiration for my young adult fiction? By watching and listening and asking questions. Or as my husband would say, "No one and nothing is safe from [my] writing."

Where are your favorite places to people watch? At parties, do you prefer to tell the tales or listen to them? Where else do you find inspiration?


gail roughton branan said...

One of my friends gave me a t-shirt for Christmas several years ago, some time before I was ever a Muse writer. "Be careful or I'll put you in my novel!" The most perfect description for a writer you could find, I always thought.

Shellie said...

So true, Gail. I do that all the time to my friends:D. Friends are the best folks to make characters know them inside and out:D

Pat McDermott said...

I agree with Mark Twain about real life inspiration, but I don't base characters on people I know, at least not consciously. Too afraid I'd inadvertently hurt someone's feelings. The news often gives me ideas for characters and stories. Interesting post, Shellie.