Tag Archive | inspiration

The Pirate, the Pie, and the Closet: Finding Inspiration

One of the questions I hear often between writers is where inspiration comes from.  Some create stories after going through a life event.  Some come up with a brilliant character that is based off of their own personality.  Some develop their own worlds and people through a vivid imagination, playing with plots based on what they want to create.

And then there’s people like me who just plain have wacky dreams and it somehow turns into a story.

Don’t ask me how it happens.  I’m still trying to figure it out.  I think it may have something to do with eating potato chips before bed, but I’ve yet to prove my theory.  But somehow, someway, that’s what my biggest inspiration for stories is.

A decade ago, I was content with just one story to work on.  “The Ripple Affair” was a fun project that served as a break from my college studies, and I was planning on finishing it and then moving on with my life in a separate career.  And then, one fateful night, I had a dream.

In the dream, I was on a pirate ship.  The room was gently rocking with the sea and I was in the captain’s cabin, sitting as a guest with some other pirates at a table.  The captain was a rather fancy-looking man who was funny and friendly, and throughout the dream we all just sat and chatted the night away.  But in the middle of our conversation, the captain suddenly stood to his feet and headed to a closet near his desk.  He opened it, everyone stopping and staring at the contents within, and showed off a row of chocolate pies that he had stashed away.  Apparently the captain really loved chocolate pies and, feeling hungry, decided to pull one out to eat while we continued to chat.

I woke wondering why on earth I had dreamed such a weird dream, but then it hit me: I never heard of a pie-addicted pirate.  I wonder what it would be like if such a pirate were real?  After spending the morning thinking, I decided to write my new ideas on paper for some notes.  Days passed, and I continued to think on the idea, until eventually I decided to write a small story about the silly pirate just for fun.  Long story short, the small story turned into a novel, which then turned into a series…and “The Adventures of Captain Patty” was born.

Inspiration is one of those things that we often search for as writers.  We want something unique for our stories…something that hasn’t been done before.  Though the world around us has plenty to offer, inspiration often works in mysterious ways, popping up when we least expect it.  Sometimes it hits when we’re dreaming.  Sometimes it hits when we’re doing the dishes or going for a morning jog.  Sometimes it’s obvious and we can’t help but run with it, yet sometimes it’s also subtle and easy to miss if we’re not paying attention.  The point is inspiration is different for everyone, yet like Forrest Gump says with his “life is like a box of chocolates” speech, we never really know what…or when…we’re going to get it.  But just like those box of chocolates (or, in Captain Patty’s case, a chocolate pie), when that inspiration arrives, it’s the sweetest thing imaginable, and we can’t help but savor the moment.

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Make sure to check out the Home page of my site for the latest news regarding Book 3 of “The Ripple Affair” series, as well as two announcements regarding Goodreads Giveaways!  

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The Adventure Begins!

It’s the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo, and I got to tell you…starting a story is tough.

Well, it’s tough when it’s midnight and you’re half asleep already, which is why (unlike many other hardcore writers) I decided to sleep in and start my writing at an hour when I was more alert.

But this time around I found myself at a loss for words when beginning my NaNoWriMo practice novel.  The words of the first chapter just didn’t “feel” like coming out today.  I found myself scratching my head as to why my computer screen remained blank.  I did the planning.  I knew who my characters were and the general plot of how the story should go.  I also had a nice ending, one I couldn’t wait to write.

So why was starting the story so difficult?

A couple of reasons popped in my head as to why this happening.  One, I’m writing in a genre that is still unfamiliar territory to me (I was going for one of those artsy-romance stories that would probably work better as an independent film instead of a book.)  Two, my “planning” consisted of a few daydreams and a character questionnaire worksheet that only concentrated on one character (who, let’s face it, will probably end up changing anyways.)  Three, it’s an extra story on top of another story I’m already writing.  The story I’d been working on before this one has been taking top priority for quite some time, so any creativity I had before camp feels like it’s just been spent.

So much for starting camp on a high note.

But with that thought, I decided to try something new.  I’m throwing out the planning.  I’m throwing out the statistics and word count averages.  This time, I’m just going to write.  Write and see what my characters do on the whim, write and see where everything ends up in the end.  I still plan on sticking to the original (planned) ending, but how my characters get there is completely unknown to me right now.

And that’s how I want it to be.  I’ll be figuring it out as I write.  In a way, it’s sort of an adventure, only this time I’m taking it with my characters instead of having them go alone.

I’m pretty excited about the prospect.  Writing on the whim, seeing what happens when the story (in a way) tells itself.  So far, the first chapter has already proven different from what I planned.  My main character was originally supposed to be charismatic and outgoing in nature.  Instead, he’s now shy and reserved.  He was also originally supposed to meet his best friend by accident.  Instead, they’re introduced by their teachers.  The story is certainly different from how I planned it, but like any other adventure, writing on the whim and letting the inspiration surprise you as you’re writing is certainly like treading into the unknown.  I don’t know where my characters are going.  I also don’t know what’s up ahead.  But like any other story, and adventure, I can’t wait to read (or in this case, write) what happens next!

 

The Inspiration of Story

During my first year as a teacher, I wanted to make my students inspired.  Inspired to learn, inspired to be good kids, inspired to grow up and become contributing members to society.  And when I had a week to create my own social studies lesson, I decided to try something different.

I decided to teach a lesson about inspiration using story.

It was an interesting week when the lesson was being taught.  During the first few days, we’d gotten hit by a terrible winter storm and the heater in the classroom had went out.  My students were all huddled in the school library having class for the morning, and to four and five year olds, nothing says awesome like being able to have class in the part of the building where all the “big kids” are.  We practiced math, we did some reading and writing, and when it came time for social studies I pulled out a picture.

It was of a young boy.  The picture was cartoonish because I never could quite find a young picture of this guy on the internet, drawn and painted as if from a few centuries back, and the kids didn’t know who he was.  I only told them his name was Alex, and as I held the picture up I began to tell a story.

This young boy had a hard life.  His father left him, his brother, and his mother all alone.  His mother had to raise him by herself.   In the Caribbean, where he lived, his home was ravaged by a terrible hurricane.  He didn’t have much of a chance to go to school after his mother died.  He lost everything and had to go to work at a store while still a kid.  Many times he had to teach himself by reading books.  Life was really hard for him.

After setting the picture down, I asked the students a question.

“How do you think the little boy turned out when he grew up?  Do you think he became a good person?  Do you think he did anything good with his life?”

Every student in the room shook their heads and said no.

“Why?” I asked.

Life was hard.  He didn’t get much of an education.  His dad left.  To the kids, it was simple why this little boy didn’t have a chance in life.  He didn’t have much of a future because he had such a terrible past.

“Alright.” I said as I pulled out another picture.  “Let’s see who this little boy became.”

I pulled out a $10 bill.  On the middle of the bill was a portrait of a famous American founding father named Alexander Hamilton.

“The little boy who didn’t get to go to school much went to America and attended college.” I began, telling them his life story.  “The job he had to work at the store when he was a kid taught him about money.  He became the first Secretary of Treasury in America and helped build the country like it is today.  The hurricane that destroyed his town gave him an opportunity to write for the newspaper about it.  He also wrote something called The Federalist Papers that is considered a classic today.”

The kids were shocked.  They didn’t expect someone who “clearly didn’t have much to work with” actually did some good with his life.  As we went through other stories of famous individuals like Phillis Wheatley and Albert Einstein, the kids became astounded that people who had such difficult or hard beginnings could overcome them and become great people.  After the lesson was over, they became inspired, feeling like they too could make the world a better place no matter what obstacle came their way.

So what was the point of the lesson?  If you’ve ever worked in the education field, you’ll know there’s a lot of hopelessness out there.  Divorce, poverty, bullying, inequality.  Like kids in the past, kids today may have a lot going against them.  I know growing up as the only kid in class with divorced parents, I was ignored and bullied for years for something I knew little about.  When I was in jr. high, however, I read the story of Jonathan in the Bible.  Like me, he had issues with his father.  Friendship was also important to him.  Even though he did the right thing, he sometimes didn’t get rewarded for it.

When I read the story of Jonathan, I felt a connection with his character.  Despite his hardships, he still did the right thing.

And that story inspired me to do the same.  My life changed because of his story.

My history lesson may not have taught my kids much about history.  Being ages four and five, I’m not sure they understood how all of these individuals impacted our world today.  What I do hope, however, is by listening to these stories of hope, they would be inspired.  That just because a parent abandoned them, they still matter.  That just because someone calls them “stupid”, they are actually smart.  That just because everyone thinks they’re nothing, they are actually something, and they are important.

What I hope, more than anything, is they realize their story is inspirational too.

 

The Story in You

I admit I get a little sad when people say “I don’t know what to write about.”

They shrug their shoulders and sigh as if writing is a talent only given to a select few and somehow they’ve been overlooked.  It’s not that they struggle through writer’s block or stumble upon a drought in creativity.  It’s that they don’t try to write at all simply because “they don’t have a story to tell.”

At least that’s what most of my friends and family told me as to why they wanted to do NaNoWriMo, but couldn’t…

But over the years as I’ve gotten the chance to connect with more people (particularly writers), I’ve come to learn something:

Everyone has a story.

Whether it’s a biography, a scene birthed from imagination, or a funny thing that happened on the way to the grocery store, everyone has a story to tell.  Even how you cooked breakfast this morning could somehow become a story (though, if you’re like me in cooking skills, said story may turn into a comedy.)  Most people think that you need to be an equivalent to Shakespeare to tell a story, but the truth is story comes in all kinds of forms (speech, writing, visual art, music, drama, etc.) and can be shared across a multitude of platforms.

What’s sad to me is that too many people are silenced from telling their stories because of discouragement.  Maybe it’s because someone said you were a terrible writer or artist.  Maybe it’s because someone received your art and gave it a negative review.  Don’t get me wrong-I think there are some stories that really aren’t that great and maybe shouldn’t be told (i.e., because they’re inappropriate for the audience.)  But it saddens me to see people with good, inspiring stories (whether fiction or non-fiction) who keep silent because of what someone else has said.

A story doesn’t have to be brilliant to be heard.  A story doesn’t have to be amazing to be inspiring.  A story just simply needs to be told-and it’s up to us to tell it.