How to Find Inspiration for Your Novel

April 17, 2019

How to Find Inspiration for Your Novel

In ancient Greek mythology, the Muses were the nine inspirational goddesses of literature, the arts and science. When ancient Greeks wrote epic poetry, it was said they were visited by the muse Calliope. We still use the term today when we are talking about trying to find inspiration.

In writing, inspiration is important, it’s what brings you your stories. If you’ve ever read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (which you should) she talks about how ideas are kind of floating around in the world and if you don’t say yes to it, then it will find someone else that will say yes. Inspiration can be found in many places and often when you least expect it. Unfortunately, sometimes the harder we try and find inspiration, the more it eludes us.

So, as a prelude, please don’t take this as the gospel. These are suggestions that may spark an idea, or leave you open to being visited by Calliope. In the end, at the very least you’ll have had a bit of fun and maybe something you saw that meant nothing two months ago will suddenly become crystal clear in the shower.

1. Learn About History

  • While I really enjoy studying history personally, I understand that it’s not everyone's cup of tea, but you can learn so much from studying the past
  • You don’t have to write historical fiction to be inspired by history
  • Humans have done some pretty amazing and crazy things. Sometimes real life is more interesting than the things you make up
  • Use curiosity, fall down a Wikipedia whole, learn something interesting

2. Study Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales

  • It always amazes me when different cultures create the same stories or the same characters when they’ve had no contact with one another 
  • Mythology is human nature, it’s how people explained the unexplainable
  • It’s a wonderful place to find stories, but it’s also a resource for how humans think, how they rationalize, what they’re willing to believe and how those beliefs shape the lives they lead
  • As a side note on mythology, be careful with respecting the culture the stories are coming from, I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will

3. Read Good Books

  • Good readers are good writers for a reason, the more you read the better you will write
  • No, this does not mean you should steal the plot or characters from other books but really think about what you liked specifically about the books you love, there could be something there, follow that string

4. Listen to Music

  • I know that some writers can’t write with music playing, I’m not asking you to do that here
  • Did you ever look out the car window when you were young and your parents were driving you around? You would put on your headphones and press play and let your mind wander, that’s what I want you to do
  • Find playlists, they have a million out there for moods and situations and just give yourself time to sit and imagine (keep a pen nearby).

5. Pay Attention to Real Life

  • You know that whole, “You can’t make this shit up.” saying? It’s amazing what can happen in the real world, don’t be so distracted that you forget to look around
  • You don’t need to write your life's story, you just need to realize that real humans will read your book and they may be interested in the things that happen to other real humans in real life
  • Again, something you’ll want to be cautious about in certain situations, you don’t want to profit off someone else’s pain or their life story

I hope this list gets the juices flowing and that your cup runneth over with inspirations soon! If you have more suggestions, please share them in the comments below so you can be a muse for our writing community.

- Kristen 

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