Woo-hoo, free autographed copy for one random commenter. Go for it!
Inspiration is a tricksy thing. There are many authors out there who will say that it is a glorious god come from on high, or maybe a muse who drifts down on occasion and drops off morsels of characterization for the poor frazzled author who must then ration it for the dark, blocked times ahead.
I don’t particularly like the muse theory. This is largely because I don’t like giving credit to anyone other than me for whatever nifty things show up on my computer screen. I may not entirely realize all the bits I’m putting in, but it’s definitely all me. “Muses” can suck it.
I keep fairly good track of what comes from where (whether it’s research, coauthors, editors, or that weird dream I had that one time with the carrots). I’m a magpie of a writer. I collect facts, images, details, names — I take all the shiny things. Practically speaking, I can “get” inspiration from just about anything — or everything, if you’d rather think of it that way. Every little thing that we humans experience gets folded into our heads, just waiting to be used for whatever reason. To keep the process a bit more useful and direct, though, I keep composition books full of character essays; I keep binders full of cut-out articles and photographs; I even keep a small notebook specifically for those tiny scraps of whatever that would inevitably get written down on cocktail napkins and shoved into pockets indefinitely if I didn’t have a specific place for them.
When I started writing Salt and Silver, I knew a lot about what I wanted to write. I wanted a real New Yorker as my main character — I wanted a diner — I wanted a Door into Hell. But to really breathe life into the story, I needed the little random things that make my brain turn clockwise. I needed to make my story shiny. I needed inspiration. So, I turned to what I knew, what I had read, and what I had collected — and I built a magpie’s nest out of it.
Did you know that there’s a Scandinavian creature that lives in the woods, looks like a beautiful woman from the front, but reveals itself to be just hollowed out wood from the back? (They’re called huldra.)
There’s a poem by John M. Ford called 110 Stories, about September 11th. One of the lines is: “The world’s hip-deep in junk that mattered once.”
You know what’s cool? The battle of Thermopylae. It will always be cool.
Saint-Exupéry, in The Little Prince, wrote: “Many have forgotten this truth, but you must not forget it. You remain responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
In one of the best parts of Milton’s Paradise Lost, there’s this bit describing the various regions Lucifer and his band must travel through in Hell. It’s a delicious bit of rhyme and rhythm, and I love to just say it out loud and let the sound of it roll.
There’s a demon of lust. Really.
“Sometimes, the last thing you want comes in first / Sometimes, the first thing you want never comes / I know, the waiting is all you can do, sometimes.”
Every one of those exists somewhere in Salt and Silver. Whether the reader notices them isn’t really the point (though, sure, the Milton would be nice). The point is that all these things — and dozens others, both known and unknown — formed the life of the book, the motivations, the plot. The inspiration, essentially.
I didn’t need no stinkin’ muse to get this stuff — I had it in me already.
If you’re writing, and you’re stuck, and you’re wishing for that muse — think about what you’ve got in your head. Think about all the stories you’ve wanted to see that have never been told. Think about what it all means to you. And then put it on the page.
Allie can’t seem to get it together. Ever since her mom ran away to Rio with Rio—her tennis instructor—stealing Allie’s trust fund and her comfortable way of life, Allie has been floundering. She works in Sally’s Diner, and lives above it. And one night in the basement, she and her friends chant a ridiculous spell—for money, for luck, for love…and open a Doorway to Hell.
Ryan thinks he’s got it all figured out. When the Door opened he appeared out of nowhere, a Stetson-wearing demon hunter dressed in leather. He’s assigned to the Door, and hangs out at the diner, and when the Door disappears he is certain that Allie had something to do with it.
But something strange is happening in Brooklyn. Something bigger than Allie, and Ryan, and the Door in the diner basement. And when a meeting of demon hunters gives birth to a dangerous idea, Allie and Ryan are left to wonder if the fragile feelings growing between them can survive a trip to Hell…or if they themselves will survive at all.
Last 5 posts by bam
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