Inspiration and the Novel

Soon after I released “The Crimson League” in April, I was talking on the phone with my older sister, and she told me she had finished reading it. I asked her if she’d liked it, and she said she had, and then she asked the question that I just dread when it comes to my writing: “Where did that come from?” Sometimes I’ll get it phrased a bit differently: “Where did you come up with that?”

I hate the question because the truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know where the concept for my story came from. A really weird dream kind of got the ball rolling, but I don’t remember a thing about that dream, and the novel that became “The Crimson League” changed TONS from my original, dream-inspired conception.

What’s strange is that the question is completely legitimate. It’s not like it’s rude, or intrusive, or in violation of the cultural norms under which we operate. If anything, it shows interest and support for me and my craft. There’s no reason to grudge the question, and I don’t grudge it when it comes. Not at all. I’m just never quite sure how to answer it. I end up saying something like, “I’m not sure,” or “I really don’t know.” Then I launch into an explanation about how I started with the concept of a resistance group working against a sorcerer who usurped the throne, and how everything else flowed from there. It’s a response.

That response doesn’t explain how that original concept arose, though. It’s hard to explain where the concept for art comes from when the idea for a novel just…. hits you. Out of nowhere. That’s what happened to me. I was staying with my aunt for a week in late July, 2006; a major problem that I couldn’t solve, one that had prevented me from writing the novel for three years after that first dream, just went away. One minute I didn’t know how to get around an issue that was bugging me, and then I did. So I started writing.

It was an inspired moment. We all have them from time to time, so we can all relate to the wonder, confusion, and joy of an inspired moment. We all know there’s really no explaining inspiration when it hits. The Greeks had the muses, attributing the phenomenon to the gods, to the supernatural, because in terms of our everyday experiences, there isn’t a way to relate to such a sudden and unexpected jump in our mental awareness of ourselves, our world, and our art. I’m Catholic, so I like to think God is working through me and my fiction in some way; I believe my fiction is part of God’s plan for me, but I don’t necessarily believe he inserted the idea for the novel in my head out of nowhere, just when it occurred to me.

Maybe, now that I stop to think about it, inspiration is the perfect answer to that question I dread. “Where did that come from? How did you come up with it?”

“Inspiration.”

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9 responses to “Inspiration and the Novel

  1. Yes I know exactly what you mean. I wrote a few posts on this myself; one of them was about the Greek idea you mentioned.

  2. Pingback: Writing a novel: What’s it take? | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  3. It is amazing where ideas come from. That tiny subconscious part of the brain that we can’t truly understand. I had the ‘dream’ for my series TSK in 2007, the main character and his life just seemed to spill out before me.

    For me though the question is very difficult. It’s been a complicated process. Albeit a very enjoyable one.

    When I started writing it, of course there were problems. But the idea developed and grew over time. I also found my writing partner in and around 2008 where the world became once again more developed and true to the characters. 2010 and I had my first coverage and although for the most part they loved it, there was again a couple of improvements. Sort of moved on from the project with family and personal changes. Then came back to it this year with a vengeance, as I was contacted by an animator interested in developing the idea. So here we are. Hopefully on the verge of a website launch next summer and a novel to kick it all off with. The process is so exciting.

    I love this blog already, think I’ll have to read it all πŸ™‚

    • WOW, that all sounds amazing!!! best of luck with the project and the animators! how cool that a dream inspired all of that!!! I’ve had kind of a pseudo-inspiration where dreams are concerned but nothing to the extent it seems you have.

  4. Dreams just give us the neatest ideas, don’t they? I always wondered if I was alone in that πŸ™‚

    What a great post! I think this is my favourite post I’ve read on your blog so far πŸ™‚ My mom has been asking me that question forever, and now I know how to answer it.

    • hahaha! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post so much πŸ™‚ dreams are really their own crazy entities…. I’m never sure what to make of them! Glad to know I’m not alone in getting ideas from them!!!

  5. Great post,
    The unanswerable question, for me, i ask for guidance, listen to my unconscious mind, sleep and dream the story and when i write i am in a light trance.
    I am not sure where some of it comes from, but i know i can trust it

    • what an amazing process! I actually try to think things through and write after I do so, when I’m awake and alert. It’s just incredible how everyone writes so differently!!!

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