So Where Do the Stories Come From, I Wonder

[An MFRW Author Post]

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africa-872384_1920She is a great, powerful beauty. She doesn’t sprawl, but anyone else in the position would be sprawled out. Instead, her long legs stretch, pulling taut the soft, draping folds of her toga as she waxes poetic, my muse, laying across my bed, whispering stories into my ear, inspiration for the next great tale of love and adventure. 

I wish.

I do not have a half-naked Greek Goddess of muse and inspiration lying across my bed. Inspiration doesn’t work like that.

Instead, it works like lightening and lightening bugs. It crashes loud and flaming across open, empty planes, potent, hot, impossible to ignore. It buzzes softly in my ear, flitting its light on with such calculated intention as to drive me mad, as I wait, eyes wide, for the next blip of an idea to strike me.

b6f3a4f04768ecd6651b7201f689c405Inspiration is a tricky bedfellow. Sometimes, it comes from the world around me – the gorgeous house on a walk home from work, the snippet of a conversation overheard in a cafe.

Sometimes, it slips right between my eyes, until the whole story plays in technicolor against my eyelids and sometimes it tells me one, singular detail, and I am left scrambling for the rest of the treasure map.

Often times, my stories inspire themselves. Singular tales become sequels become trilogies, become multi-generational affairs. My current work in progress gifted me an idea for a whole new series with just the name of a location I had made up on the spot. Riding this way of inspiration is fun. It is exciting. It allows me to make up my world brick by brick, knowing I will stay there a while. I walk into this new book, familiar with my people, places and things.

But, no matter how potent the influence of my environment or how my own writing, blissfully, continues to create exciting plots, there is one place I can alway turn to when I need a new idea.

Books.

books-690219_1920If you want to be a writer, you must read. It is one of two cardinal truths: Read. Write.

If you do not read, it will show in every inch of your writing. Read, to know what books have been written before you. Read, to understand character development and arc. Read to brush up on plot and story structure.

I am my best writer when I like the story I am reading.

The influences are both shallow and deep. I tend to write in the genre I have consumed most – for instance, when I binge regency, it reflects in my work, and when I listen to a contemporary novel, I find myself writing contemporary stories.

But it goes further than that. Reading the books I love – books very similar to the type I am writer, forces me to answer difficult questions. For instance, I started working on a Special Forces series after I dug into Maya Banks’ KGI series. At the time, I didn’t do the research or planning the story deserved, and when I returned to an Eloisa James regency binge, my contemporary work went unfinished. Several months ago, I got really into Laura Kaye’s Hard Ink series, which focuses on a team of discharged Green Berets. I was all in on this series, and realized just how much more work my own special forces books needed. Kaye’s research was impeccable and her characterization made the books what they were.

So I refocused my efforts, clearing away bulletin boards and setting up outlines.

Books influence writers. It’s a universal truth. Whether they give you the original storyline or demand more from a WIP, they challenge authors – and if you’re not being challenged, you’re not getting better.

So where do the stories come from? They come from stories. They come from the stories of my afternoon, the stories I have already written, and the stories that I love. Stories beget stories – and how wonderful is that? ♦

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