An Author's Life

Inspiration is Everywhere

As a writer, people often ask me, “Where do you come up with your ideas?”

There are some who believe that authors merely sit in an office with a laptop in front of them and just come up with ideas on the fly…that somehow plots and story lines come to us as we pound away on the keys.


Truth is, most of us find inspiration in everyday situations. Many authors will sleep with a pen and paper next to their bed in case they wake up from an ingenious dream. Some will overhear a person say something clever, causing the author to think, “I should put that in a book.” There are others who will simply walk down the street, look up, and see a cloud that resembles a dragon, and voila…a story is born.

Boy wearing a hoodie. Artist: Remi Martin
Boy wearing a hoodie. Artist: Remi Martin

Inspiration is everywhere. I have often found that the best ideas come from the most unexpected places. I love strolling through antique stores and finding odd items and photographs that make me wonder what kind of story they can tell. My 16-year-old daughter will draw sketches that have been known to give me ideas for characters in my books. I’ve also been known to browse social media and find photographs or phrases that influence my creativity on that particular day.

Even people themselves are great walking-billboards of ideas. The way they look, the way they talk, what they say…I can’t help but wonder who they really are and why they act the way they do. I guess I have a way of constantly wondering what makes people tick – a student of human nature.

Women working in a haberdashery in the 1930's.
Women working in a haberdashery in the 1930’s.

But what I really love is discovering new places. Comic book stores, rolling hills, a deserted gas station, a downed tree, a long stretch of highway, a tire swing, or an alleged haunted hotel…who knows what kind of stories could have taken place there in the past…or even the near future?

And that’s where it starts.

I escape in to my mind and begin to contemplate the “what-ifs”. What if fallen angels were real? What if ghosts could really interact with people? What if time travel was real? If I could go back in time, who would I want to talk to and what would I change? What if the apocalypse happened tomorrow? What if the world suddenly changed? What if the future we fear actually happens?

Then, I take those what-ifs and put them together with the items, places, or people I’ve met along the way. That guy that works behind the counter at the local coffee shop? What if he was a demon? Or maybe a demon hunter. What if an entire town of people suddenly vanished and no one noticed? How will society function one hundred years from now? Two hundred years? What if everyone you loved was tragically taken away from you? How would you react? In the end, one idea ultimately flows in to another until the basic plot becomes words on a page.

There are currently 8 pages in a Word document on my laptop with ideas for future story lines. My next project was inspired by the hills that surround my home in South Dakota and the idea that they would make a great battleground for a an epic battle. The main character came to me after seeing a dark photo of a girl curled up on a sidewalk when I was browsing through Pinterest late one night. The best friend of the protagonist is a frumpy nerd who loves comic books and role-playing games…and just happens to be inspired by one of the funniest, smartest, sweetest, nerdiest guys I know.

The comic book in my hometown in South Dakota. Can you say “nerd-vana”?

Creativity can strike anytime and in any form, and I have to be open to it when it does. I have become quite good at taking the ordinary and turning them in to something that I would like to read myself.

Which brings me to this. For those of you who have always wanted to write, allow me to give you some advice.

1) Write. Stop making excuses. Even if you can’t write every day, just write.

2) Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. Get the story on paper and worry about making it perfect later.

3) The more you write, the better you’ll get. So write as often as you can.

4) Read, read, read. And don’t just read one kind of genre. Read them all.

5) Don’t play in to what is hot at the moment. If you want to write dystopian, write dystopian. If you want to create a world of vampires, write about vampires. They’re telling you that sci-fi is a dead genre? Write it anyway.

6) Open your eyes to everything around you. The places you visit. The people you meet. The items you see lying in the street.

Don’t ever underestimate your ability to create worlds. Every night when you close your eyes, your brain goes in to overdrive and generates amazing and colorful scenarios and narratives. The trick is channeling your subconscious and making it…conscious.

Go forth and write. And remember…inspiration is everywhere.