Inspiration and the Working Writer
Posted by Debbie Mumford
As a published novelist, a question that pops up frequently in conversations is, “Where do you get your ideas?”
The world around me is a constant source of inspiration, though I rarely stay in the here-and-now for more than a few pages. I’ve published a few contemporary romance short stories, but they were flash fiction (1,000 words or less). If they’d been any longer, I’m positive something “unusual” would’ve crept in. So far, my longer fiction has always been fantasy or paranormal in nature.
I have a collection of short stories titled Red’s Magick that began on a cold winter day when the glass in the front door at my office fogged up. You could actually read a sign that had been removed as much as a decade earlier. The phrase “ghost in the glass” popped into my mind and simmered until I was asked to write those stories, and voila! Red was born.
Another question I’ve been asked regards whether my ideas begin as a vague idea or arrive fully formed, needing only to be transcribed and polished. In all honesty, my stories usually start from a seed—a phrase or a picture that intrigues me. The seed will germinate in my subconscious until it’s ready to work itself out through my fingers and onto the screen. I rarely know what I’m going to write until I’m actually in the process of typing. That’s part of the fascination for me—discovering what happens next!
Several of my published short stories began as writing exercises: Take three unrelated words and write for fifteen minutes with the goal of using all three words. Opening Her Eyes began as dragon-rickshaw-bifocals, though you’d never know it to read the final version!
One of my current works-in-process was born during a drive with my husband to admire the fall foliage. A tree sprite popped into my head and asked what would happen if she married a human and they had a daughter? Because of that question I imagined Nimue—a feisty teenage girl who is stuck between worlds. She’s definitely not human, but she’s not quite Fae either. As if those teenage years aren’t hard enough…
Finally, there’s my novella, The Silver Casket, a story created by my fascination with my own Scots heritage. What would happen if a lonely, contemporary American woman were transported back in time to 15th century Scotland? I’ll never tell—you’ll have to read the novella to find out, but it was a blast to write!
So…Where do you find your inspiration?