Monday, May 11, 2009

Where do you get your inspiration?

by Ben Small

Not talking about church here. More the opposite. Like the spot where I like to dream of murder.

Hopefully, you the reader, are a writer or a reader, or you're probably dialing 911 about now.

But I'm talking about writing inspiration, where you drum up plot points, where you ask some of the more interesting What if? questions.

I get mine from many directions: watching interaction at the mall or at sporting events, or just sitting at the U of A campus, watching people. I'll jot a few notes about character traits I may want to infuse into someone later. Or I'll drift away sometimes while I'm writing, flowing on a gust of creative wind that may become a storm. Classical music puts me into a contemplative mood, which can often be intense enough I don't even hear my wife come in with amendments to the Honey Do list.

But the places I enjoy most for this are similar. The hammock off a back deck or a lounge chair by the pool, both at night, when the desert comes alive. Birds calling to mates or potential victims are sending messages, and I'm picking up their vibes. I often imagine what they're saying to each other. Or a big iguana may crawl out of a bush, stand a moment stock still, before scurrying away. The Gambel quail stir and squawk warnings. Is a bobcat about to saunter by?

It's amazing how the desert nights drive my creative spirit. I can come in after an hour in the desert night full of new ideas, ready to pound some keys on the keyboard always in my lap.

I come up with trigger words -- no, not something I aim at a troublesome neighbor -- words I can jot down when I come in that will take me back to my musings. Amazing how one little word can signal a major plot change. But it's the way I used to prepare for closing argument in trial, trigger words, shorthand, one note and a torrent is released. It works in writing, too, which is why I always keep a notebook next to my bed and why there's a stack of torn magazine pages next to me wherever I go.

But by far, the desert night, no traffic, just enjoying the peace and tranquility -- unless the coyotes have scored -- provides my best inspiration. Combine the desert night with Rachmaninoff when I return, and I'm off and riding the tide, pounding on the keyboard like an over-caffeinated court reporter.

But no Bach, please. Bach steers me toward murder. Oh wait...that's what I do: write about murder.

More Bach please. And more desert.


Jean Henry Mead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jean Henry Mead said...

I wonder what my favorite classic, "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" would inspire in you, Ben. Murder at the ballet or the concert hall? For some reason it inspires me to write humor.

Chester Campbell said...

Music has always been a big part of my life until the last few years. I was a symphony goer for many years and have countless classical CD's across the office but never play them. I'm a fan of Mahler and Tchaikovsky. I like big finishes. Okay, I just put Peter Iljitch's Symphonies No. 2 and 3 in the computer. Let's see if it'll inspire a blog.

Helen Ginger said...

I need quiet to think, so it would most likely be when I'm alone and either just thinking or listening to music - or studying the scene where something is going to take place in the book.

Mark W. Danielson said...

I'm with you, Ben. There is no better inspiration than observing human behavior. Like when the twenty-something in the right seat of the maroon Ford Taurus wagon flipped me off when his lady friend driver failed to move her car after the light turned green. Surely there's a story in there somewhere . . .