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The Secret to Inspired Writing
By Gila Green
I don't get ideas. I feel ideas. Let me explain. I'm commonly asked where my ideas come from for my fiction. It's a legitimate question. You've probably read it in many author interviews. The most common writer responses I've read to this question include: true experiences; ideas I overheard, events that happened to people close to me; historical or current events; revamping well known Biblical themes, Shakespearean plays, Greek mythology, or other famous themes.
In this post I'd like to respond in a new way. I get ideas from emotions. I ask myself this question: what can I think of that makes me feel a strong emotion? Think of this as a journaling prompt. The emotion can be negative or positive, but it has to be strong. It has to make me want to jump out of my chair, laugh, shout, or cry. Those are the only rules. Nothing is off limits.
For example, in my young adult, environmental fiction novel No Entry, there is a somewhat violent scene in which the heroine seventeen-year-old, Yael Amar, comes across a murdered elephant. The elephant's face is disfigured because her tusks have been ripped off (it's tempered because I definitely took the audience age into account.) How did I write that scene? I went online and Googled elephant poaching, read articles about the terrifying current state of the African elephant, and flipped through photos of elephants in their natural environment.
When I was overflowing with emotion about poachers who murder elephants for their ivory, and only then, I wrote the scene and then the whole chapter. In this way, my passion for the subject spills out onto the page.
Now you may ask how did I get the idea for writing about elephant poaching in the first place? My answer is the same. I thought about something that made me feel a strong emotion. I knew I wanted to write a South African-based novel. After writing four Middle-East and Canada based novels, I needed a new canvas. I wanted a challenge and a change at the same time. Thinking about South Africa made me think of Kruger National Park. Almost immediately elephant extinction came to mind and voila! the scene begins to form in my writing. This is one of the reasons why good writing is so close to good acting. You need to inhabit your characters. This means zeroing in on the emotions surging through the character at that point on the page.
The next time you're writing don't try to think, try to feel. When you feel something, any emotion, strongly enough, focus in on it, find related experiences that you can conjure up from anywhere, real or imagined, and start writing. This will inspire your writing process and in turn, your readers.