I have come across many blogs and websites, Twitter and Facebook posts, that claim ”real writers” don’t need inspiration to write. I respect that, and I agree. Inspiration is not necessary to write a good novel. But it makes it more fun, at least for me, can cut writing time in half, and occasionally brings forth better content. I don’t need inspiration, I want it.
Getting inspired really isn’t very hard. We can gain it by being in nature, staring at the sky, or by reading others’ novels, watching films, etc. If you’re like me, it’ll come naturally, through daydreaming, or even from reading academic texts (thank you university for giving me such great novel ideas!). Or you could try using prompts (which are easily found online).
When I first got the idea for this blog post, I daydreamed about its contents and some of my ideas made it into my notes. However, not everything did so now I am stuck with a note telling me to include my story idea of a shepherd in 1 B.C. searching for love, without any clue what I wanted to say with this. (I have every intention of writing this story someday, even if romance is far from my comfort zone.) Still, we can speculate.
A shepherd is an unlikely protagonist these days, but paired with a setting like the 1st century B.C. and the goal of finding love, it becomes intriguing. From what I can remember from elementary school history classes, people used to live in small villages spread out over vast areas of land. A shepherd in those times then, may have a hard time meeting people altogether. He is surrounded by sheep or goats, perhaps a dog, but is likely to spend most of his days without seeing another human. Must be lonely. So he wants to find someone to go home to. He’s young, and wants to procreate before it’s too late. His father used to hold the position before him but then he died and left his estate to his son. Perhaps the shepherd’s mother has fallen ill and he wishes for someone to take care of her while he is away. How does he go about it?
This post is not about finding inspiration. It’s about keeping it after already having found it. How do you keep writing when you’ve ran out of plot? Personally I haven’t experienced writer’s block. Or maybe I have but I didn’t recognise it. Therefore I am not sure what it is or how to cure it. What I do know about is temporary loss of inspiration. Say I wrote about the shepherd (apologies for any misspellings of this word, as I do struggle with it), I explained some of his backstory, and instigated his meeting with an unsuspecting young woman, but now I’m stuck. They met and they like each other but where is my conflict? It’s all too easy this way. I’m sure some people get everything handed to them from a young age but this is a poor shepherd in a novel whose author wants to keep their readers interested. What to do?
First of all, you can ask yourself the question ”What conflict fits my story?”. Maybe her father disapproves of him, perhaps she was promised to another, she could fall ill, he could be arrested because his herd trampled a villager to death, she could be accused of witchcraft, he could meet another woman who also catches his eye (love triangle), etc. Think of scenarios, no matter how crazy, that would make accomplishing his goal much harder. Write them down, read over them. You don’t have to decide right away. Sleep on it. Write a chapter for each of the possibilities.
Try drawing your characters or the setting. Even if you suck at drawing (like me), it can help your creativity. I’m not sure what the science behind it is (though I have read an article on it) but it works. And if you really do not want to draw, try colouring. It’s relaxing and allows your mind to flow freely. If you’re the sporty type (or if you want to be), try exercising, whether that is going for a run, doing squats, or kicking the shit out a boxing bag.
But my number one tip, which works best for me and which I will always recommend, is (day)dream about your characters. Personally I am capable of lucid dreaming (think of Tris in Divergent only instead of simulations these are dreams), so I can bend stuff to my will, but even thinking about your charaters before bed can aide in dreaming about them. It doesn’t have to be your story you dream about. In fact, I find dreaming about their dull daily lives much more rewarding.
Nasim Alfarsi is the main character in my finished novel and in at least three other novels I intend to write. When I was writing that novel, I used to dream and daydream about him. Usually not about cases (he’s a police officer) but about his daily life. Most often these were conversations with Alissa (his partner) or the other people in his life. I learnt how he would react in certain situations. I got to know him better. Even though he is my character and I created him, he has the ability to surprise me, even now.
What you learn here can easily be applied to your novel. Maybe my shepherd doesn’t trust women because he witnessed his mother cheat on his father when he was little. You never know what you’ll find out, even when you think you know everything there is to know about your character. Additionally, and I cannot stress this enough, you do not need to know everything about your characters. Not a week goes by that I don’t see one of those forms with a hundred-odd questions that you must be able to answer about your main character.
Bullshit. Most of those forms are so specific, I cannot even answer all of the questions about myself and I’ve known me for decades, while I’ve only known Nasim for about a year and a half now. Don’t be intimidated. Even if your character may appear to contradict herself. So what? People are fickle. She could have changed her mind. People can change, and so can their viewpoints. It’s your book. And if you’re unhappy about it later, you can always change it. It is not set in stone (and even if it was we now have technology to undo that kind of thing so no worries).
Finally I would like to point out that I am not a published author, nor a specialist of any kind, but I can write about my experiences. My last post was about chestnuts because I know a thing or two about them and wanted to share that. This post is about tips that worked for me and may work for you. There is no guarantee they will but it doesn’t hurt to try. I started this blog because I read agents and publishers like a platform. Now, three weeks in, I realise I enjoy sharing useful information with people, whoever ends up reading this. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be lucky enough to get feedback on my actual ficiton writing.
Next week I will likely be sharing a recipe for banana bread I made a few weeks ago (all recipes I will share will have been tried and tested. I will share nothing I did not like.) and the week after that will be close to my birthday so I will take the easy way out and share one of my short stories with you. (As a gift you could read it and give some feedback?)
See you next week!