Gonna talk about writing for a bit, namely my own stuff.
I wasn’t even a couple thousand words into my first Misadventure novella when I realized I wrote myself into a corner. Basically, the story revolves around a rescue mission that Cuyudan and Falangost botch by losing the person they’re trying to rescue. I intended to then jump straight to another party claiming the reward for the rescue and taking the story elsewhere…
It hit around 12:30 last night. I’m lying in bed, waiting for the melatonin to kick in so I can actually get a good night’s rest. Some nights my mind’s running at about 100 miles an hour: thoughts, plans, anxieties — the very stuff that life is made of. This was one of those nights, and I starting thinking about working on my Misadventure and what those two lunkheads are going to do when… pop… there’s the answer.
I didn’t write it down then and there because… well, I had melatonin working it’s way to my brain. Didn’t want to miss out on a night’s sleep because I’ve done enough of that in the past, to be honest. But it’s there now, on a file waiting my further exploitation.
I know some writers like to keep journals so they can write down their dreams and look for inspiration, but the first thing I need to do when the alarm goes of is inspire my sorry ass to move. Let’s just be honest, I’m thankful if I’m semi-coherent when I get up, and I don’t drink coffee in the morning any more. Besides, I don’t put stock in my dreams. The only one that made enough sense that I can recall took place in Moscow and involved a pair of werewolves that had been relocated there from Chernobyl when the reactor shit the bed. Some of the stuff in that dream bothered me, and that’s hard to do — but I’ve yet to write that story.
Oh, and there was that dream from when I was thirteen and beat up the nemesis of a recurring dream I had when I was a kid: some entity disguised as Cookie Monster trying to eat me. I shit you not, that recurring dream ended that night.
I think that’s when I started showing an interest in writing. Either that or I’m weirder than I thought. Both are plausible.
I’ve never been one to wait for inspiration or muses to get me going on a story. I tend to start with an idea and run with it, although typically I hold back until I’ve found a second idea to mate with it to give the story something worthwhile.* Nor am I the type of writer to believe in an “organic process” or that characters have “lives of their own.” No, things happen in stories because I try to make them happen, and if it’s not working for one reason or another, I try something else.
That’s just my approach to the craft. I won’t advocate it as “the way” to tackle the written word because there is no one way. Some people prefer to work in a freeflowing environment. I like a certain measure of order.
Have I been inspired by outside sources? Absolutely! Sometimes it’s by what I read, what I see on TV, or even the spirit of the times. Ultimately the decision of how ideas fit a story — if at all — comes down to me, however. I agree that sometimes the subconscious has to sort things out, but I don’t count on it. I’m the one putting the words on the page after all.
*It was a concept in writing that clicked with me when I read Patricia Highsmith’s “Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction.” By the way, if the name’s not familiar to you, she wrote “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” which was adapted to a film staring Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow