Friday, June 3, 2011

Inspiration and Imagination--It Takes Two to Tango

INSPIRATION is the inhaling of the memory of an act never experienced. ~ Ned Rorem

IMAGINATION is the liquid solution in which art develops the snapshots of reality ~ Cyril Connolly

~In the June issue of THE WRITER, Bharti Kirchner used these quotes to begin the cover article "The Germ of an Idea." The quotes captured my heart and mind immediately. They're the perfect definitions of two important concepts that fuel our creative forces. The article continues with sixteen published writers of fiction and nonfiction describing how inspiration and imagination have worked in their careers. From Sue Grafton and Elizabeth George to Greg Bear and Elizabeth Lyon, these writers open a window into their process.

~After I read the article, I couldn't help it. I had to peel apart the inspiration and imagination that sparked the two works-in-progress (WIP) that I work on the most. I thought I'd share.

~It may sound like a cliche, but the inspiration for this WIP did come to me in a very vivid dream. In March 2008, I woke from a morning nap (no comments, please ; ) with this image in my mind--A eleven or twelve-year-old girl leaned against a low stage in a crowded church fellowship hall. Her golden curls framed a fully made-up face, complete with eyeshadow, liner, and mascara. I looked out of the eyes of an older woman whose heart was immediately hooked by what was obviously a child in pain. I had no clue who they were, what had happened, or why they were in a room full of little children. It didn't matter. The image stayed with me all day as I completed a long list of errands. The story unfolded as I went from one job to the next. By nightfall, I knew the woman's name and that she was a recently widowed, retired teacher with no children of her own. The girl was an abused foster child named Samantha and the children in the room were all foster children. That's all it took to launch my contemporary, mainstream novel, FRIENDLY FIRE.

~This story's  origins may be even stranger than the one above. I've read science fiction for decades. It's a genre both John and I love, so it's not really surprising that I have a SF WIP. What makes it surprising is that I have no background in science. My field is history. The story is based on the life of a thirteenth century French queen. Really. ; ) My master's thesis is a biography of Blanche of Castile. Her life was full of the political intrigue and family drama that characterizes the Medieval history of England, France, and Spain. Her maternal grandparents were Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and she married Louis (VIII) "the Lion" Capet. Their son, Louis IX, is now known as Saint Louis. My WIP takes Blanche's life story and translates it into the life of Princess Canda Aurora of Shardonia. With near light-speed travel and tachyon pulse communications, my three planets interact much like Medieval Europe's England, France, and Spain--with a few changes along the way. I think Canda's story has great potential, but don't hold your breath--I've worked on this one for over twenty-five years.

~I'd love to know what fuels your WIPs. Where do you get your inspiration and what spurs your imagination?


  1. OOOOH, I love hearing about the inspiration behind stories. My story, Far From the Sea, was inspired by a poem. I was so intrigued by the emotions of the people in the poem I started wondering what had happened. That's how I met Paul.

  2. I like the "found it in a poem" as your inspiration! That's classy. ; )

  3. Love both your inspirations - I wrote a short story based on a song once. And I've had three full ideas come to me in dreams - just gotta finish Rosa's story before I can start playing with those...
    Can't believe Laura Grace's name came to you so quickly! And I really can't wait to see more and more snips from the SF!

  4. Dreams are good, aren't they? And they aren't just a vague "I dream of being a writer" either, are they? ; ) Oh, yes, you've got to finish Rosa's story!

  5. I couldn't believe it the first time it happened to me - and I doubt I'll ever be able to write the story; it's so out of my element. A Central or Southern American small town girl comes to the States with her family and romance ensues... Now, why would I dream of a Spanish girl (this was before Rosa)? Hmm, I could change it to a Turkish girl...
    And then I've had two other dreams of completely different stories since then. So very exciting!

  6. Inspiration is always the result of some quick visual. A fish tank in the doctor's office--a romance between two species. A large oak tree in the middle of a grassy meadow--a story of horses and a child.
    Thanks for making me think at the end of a Friday.

  7. How cool! Thanks for sharing your "origin stories" Zan Marie! I'm always curious about this kind of thing.

    My current WIP started with a song. Heard it and went "Hmmmmm." It went into the old mental rock tumbler, got turned around, smoothed out and shaken up a little bit, and when it was all done -- by god, there it was. It now reflects very little of the original song, but it was a rocket-launcher of a starting point. [g]

  8. Arghhh! My comment got lost, So here it is again.

    A Turkish girl! Of course, you can change it and the MC would still be chanllenged by the cultural differences.

    You're welcome. I'm not usually visual, but Friendly Fire did come from a visual. It pays to pay attention to everything.

    I love your description--"old mental rock tumbler"! That's a great way to describe my back brain when several ideas begin to roll around in it. I'm glad you found your rocket. ; )

  9. My "Cynthia's Attic" series (4 books, soon to be 5) was inspired by a recurring dream I had for over 20 years, so dreams are very important in my ideas process.

    Love your stories, ZM and the inspiration behind them.

  10. Thanks, Mary! I love , too. That's a good dream. ; )

  11. Oops. Let's try that again. I meant to say--I love Cynthia's Attic, too. : )

  12. LOVE these types of stories. Very inspirational! LOL

  13. As writers, our imagination is our greatest tool for finding those kernels. Our creativity develops the storyline.

    For me, inspiration comes from what-ifs, news casts,chats with others, dreams, bits and pieces of real life mixed with fantasy.

  14. Jo,
    To me sometimes gathering ideas is a bit like collecting scrap out of the yard. I never know if that shiny bit I see in the distance is a diamond or a shard of broken glass. Sometimes it doesn't matter which, an idea blooms. ; )

  15. I had a song come to me in a dream once........but I don't think I've ever had story ideas come from a dream. except that I did write some short stories FROM dreams I'd had... hehe

  16. I think dreams are powerful and creative. I dreamed a poem once and everytime I woke, I scribbled down a bit more. It's one of my better ones. A song makes sense to me.

    That reminds me--I need to post some of my poems. ; )


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