I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “Where do your stories come from?”
My answer would have to be, “Everywhere.”
One thing I’ve noticed about authors, including myself, is that a large portion of inspiration comes from the people, places, and experiences we’ve encountered over the years, and what we are unable to experience in real life we supplement with reading and research. But whatever the case, rarely does a person have inspiration that is entirely foreign to what they know. To some degree, at least, what we write is merely mimicking a huge variety of things we have already seen, heard, experienced, read, etc. Sometimes we do this intentionally. Sometimes, however, the memories have been so deeply ingrained in our minds that we don’t even realize that was where the inspiration came from.
Research plays a large role in my life as an author. My house is littered with encyclopedias and dictionaries of everything from traditional baby names to weaponry to astronomy. I have an encyclopedia of knights, one for lost civilizations, one for horse breeds, one for mythology, and heaven knows how many others. I’ve got collections of fairy and folk tales and a dictionary of Irish Gaelic. Anything to gain new ideas.
As a writer of fantasy, particularly medieval fantasy, one of the things I like to do to gain inspiration is visit renaissance fairs such as the one I had the privilege of going to this past weekend. I must admit, renaissance fairs tend to have a stigma on them and for good reason. They attract a lot of…special…characters. But in my own personal opinion, the good still outweighs the bad. There is something to be said about a good renaissance fair. In this era of high-tech gadgets, mass-production, and 24/7 on-the-go frenzy, the art of handmade goods, traditional music, and real human interaction has kind of fallen by the wayside. At the fair, however, people with an avid interest in the past come together to spend their hours interacting with potential customers, pretending to be medieval people just for the fun of it, and hand-making a large portion of their own goods. And most importantly, from an author’s perspective, they bring the imagined to life.
There are other places I go to gather inspiration, too. When it comes to world-building, a good thing to do is to scour the “globe” for inspiration. In other words, I learn about the real world to build my fantasy one. Sometimes I go to National Geographic for inspiration, as the articles they produce often come with a fair amount of pictures. And of course, pictures are what I use for almost all of my inspiration. A picture taken at Angkor Wat, such as the one above, might serve as great inspiration for a scene in a fantasy novel.
Thankfully, though, the world isn’t limited to what I see in the National Geographic Magazine, and where that source falls short for my inspiration, I turn to other creative venues such as DeviantArt and Worth1000.com. Both sites are geared toward creative people, containing everything from extraordinary, hand-painted scenes to surreal, digitally-altered images. When I feel like I need to “see” something, these sites are often where I go.
But then, of course, there is also another thing that has had a major impact on my writing: anime. I was first introduced to Japanese animation when I was in 5th or 6th grade, and I’ve been watching it ever since. My fascination with anime has resulted in several things, not the least of which the fact that I imagine everything in anime form. I imagine The Star Trilogy as an anime. I imagine Prism World as an anime. When I close my eyes, I literally cannot envision my stories in any other form. Thus, I write in an anime-geared fashion. The intense detail I put into my stories, the dialogue between characters, the terms and phrases I prefer using, even the types of swords my medieval-based characters use are influenced by the Japanese elements in anime.
Sometimes it’s childhood memories. Sometimes it’s experiences I have sought out for my own improvement. Sometimes it’s research, or inspiration from other people, or even pop-culture. Whatever the case, though, one thing is certain: Good writers rely as much on the world around them as they do on their own minds for inspiration. The more you embrace the real world, the more real your own world can become.