Although creating stories is something I have been doing for my own entertainment since early childhood, until recently I had never given any thought to what actually inspires the stories I tell. It was during the course of writing my first novel throughout most of 2016 that I first consciously came to realise that the inspiration for my writing comes from two things. It came as something of a surprise to realise these two factors were influencing all my work because beforehand I wouldn’t have thought either lend themselves naturally to writing fantasy or science fiction.
The first of these inspirations, and the catalyst for any given idea for a story I have, is the observations I make about the real world. Such observations invariably become the central theme running through my stories. It could be something as obvious as the reality that profits trump all other considerations in capitalist societies, for example. At other times it could be a much less obvious observation; but the upshot is the same, the observation is the seed that my stories grow from. However, while my observations about the world tend to offer good starting points for a story, alone they have never been enough to produce a compelling tale I would want to read. This is where the second inspiration for my writing comes to the fore.
I have a fascination for dichotomies. I hadn’t noticed this about myself until I began writing my soon-to-be debut novel, but once I did notice, it made me realise how this fascination (more than anything else) drives the narrative for my stories. The contrasting of opposites can provide so many different avenues for character development and plot progression (which I consider to be the most important facets of a story), and I suspect this is the principal reason for my love of utilising and exploring dichotomies in my writing.
It’s probably worth highlighting how the two aforementioned sources of inspiration help me, by revealing how they shaped the novel I recently completed. Although it began life as a fan fiction short story originally conceived in 2007, when I decided to use it as the basis for an original novel I was attracted by the overarching theme at the centre of the story; a theme born of my observations about the use of power, in general, but more specifically about the type of person most likely to abuse their power, and the type least likely to do so. Very early on during the writing of the book the well known quote from Uncle Ben of Spider-man fame, “With great power comes great responsibility.” frequently came to mind. This sentiment ultimately became the best summary of the idea behind the cautionary tale at the heart of my novel.
As far as ideas go, it’s by no means original, and by itself hardly enough to guarantee a story that I (or anyone else) would want to read. What really made the story for me while writing it was how my main characters allowed me to engage in the contrasting of dichotomies at various stages throughout the narrative, whether it be arrogance and humility, confidence and self-doubt, or love and hate. This exploration of dichotomies also had the unexpectedly fortuitous side-effect of inspiring the creation of a new character and sub-plot I hadn’t originally intended to include. As this new character is in many ways the polar opposite of my protagonist, his emergence presented the opportunity for comparing their opposing traits and actions. The differing ways in which the two characters react and choose to cope with a traumatic event that each has experienced was an important development that ultimately became a crucial component of the story; it was almost a disappointment for me that they only meet once, very briefly, near the end.
So that wraps up the topic of what inspires my fiction writing; dichotomies and real world observations. Now that I am cognisant of this reality I can’t help but worry if it will adversely affect what and how I write in future. I think it’s obvious now that not being consciously aware of what was inspiring my writing was very beneficial to my writing. But will I now knowingly seek to develop my stories by forcing them to be guided by these two factors? I certainly hope not; I suspect it wouldn’t work out so well if I did.
I’d be interested to learn what inspires the writing of other writers so feel free to leave comment below to let me know.