Authors Speaking About Inspiration.
A little while ago I got the opportunity to attend the Adelaide Penguin Teen Showcase.
I’ve never been to anything like this before so it was very interesting to see how they worked.
We were lucky enough to get an advance screening of the Love, Simon movie, which is of course based on Penguin’s YA novel Simon and the Homosapien Agenda. I thought it was a very charming movie. So often book to movie adaptions end up sucking, but Love, Simon was really lovely.
But perhaps even more interesting to me, this event gave me the opportunity to listen to two Penguin YA authors in conversation, Margot McGovern (Neverland) and Allayne Webster (Centre of my Everything). It was awesome to hear Margot and Allayne speak about their writing and inspiration in real life.
Allayne spoke about being inspired by her family growing up, the community around her and the towns she visited and lived in. Margot spoke about revisiting her favourite childhood books, and finding them a hell of a lot darker and more disturbing than she remembered in their themes, and both of them drew direct inspiration for their stories from these experiences.
But how do you create a full fledged plot out of an idea or a moment of inspiration?
I have never heard inspiration talked about in such tangible and instructive terms as by Alison Tait within one of the So You Want to be a Writer podcast episodes (and gosh wouldn’t it be excellent if I could remember which one it was.... sorry!).
She explained it in such an easy to understand way, which came about because a topic was raised on the podcast which I haven’t thought much about before.
How do you turn the seed of an idea (your inspiration) into an actual story?
Presumably most writers start with the seed of an idea.
It is the next step that is the hardest.
Because how do you turn a little idea into a full length story?
Has that idea been used before?
If it has, what angle are you going to focus on in order to make your story interesting and fresh?
Alison Tait said that for her, making a story interesting comes back to the character/characters.
In fact, she said your character is your story.
In a different podcast, Alison and Valerie also said another thing on this same topic that stuck with me:
You can have a plot be as complex as you like, but you better make your main character just as complex and deep, otherwise... who cares?
A twisty plot is awesome, but I am definitely the kind of reader (or watcher when it comes to movies and television) that requires complicated and deep characters to make it all worthwhile.
So I think it makes a lot of sense to me, that your character is your story.
So how do you turn a character into a story?
The podcast discussion was on the hotspot of your idea. Alison said for her, that hotspot is always the WHY?
Why would her characters do that weird thing?
Why would they want to?
And I guess for Alison, that is the crux of storytelling, because stories reflect to us the why in our world.
Why does anyone do anything?
She wants to know.
So Alison said she takes her why, and from there you often find the problem, and the problem is your plot!
So basically your story is your character, and therefore why they do what they do, the problem that stands in their way becomes your plot.
Give your character a really big goal, and then develop a whole range of problems, and the plot of your story comes from your character making decisions in the face of these problems.
Every decision they make adds to your story, so make things as difficult as possible for your character.... otherwise, why bother?
So therefore, if your central conflict is something your characters could resolve really quickly and easily through a simple conversation, then your story premise is too flimsy.
Because you need to satisfy your readers.
My take on this:
My take is wishy washy and haphazard to be honest.
For me, inspiration is a tapestry.
I have a bunch of tiny weird ideas, some very very small sometimes, but little by little I find connections between all the millions of little things I want to write about, and as these connections are made, I force myself to fill in the gaps between them, and a story is created by weaving the little seeds of ideas together.
Inspiration is such a fascinating topic, and I’m not sure this post added any light to it, but it was interesting for me to think of inspiration in these terms.
Let me know how you move from an idea to an actual story?
Is it something you find difficult?
I would love to know!