Over the past summer, I’ve attended a number of author readings, and learned that the question almost every author gets asked is: Where do you get your ideas?
If you’ve been following my adventures since Taste Life Twice, no doubt you’ve learned that certain places (ahem, Scotland!) inspire me.
But when people ask me why I fell in love with Scotland, it usually boils down to two parts landscape, one part accents, two parts history, and three parts folk tradition/ culture. So really, you can pull apart the romance of such a place into these separate enchantments.
Today, I am thinking about getting inspiration, from a place alone. For example, take this picture:
What do you expect to happen here? How about multiple choice:
a) Someone finds their lost wedding ring
b) Two tennis players fall in love
c) A guy gets injured, stranded, and has to amputate his own leg to survive
I bet you chose c) as the most likely, right? Hehe.
Just like when we look at art, we bring all our own experiences to the places we visit, but for some places, there are common assumptions we all make. And the middle of a blanket bog, where the wind blows, does not seem a friendly, welcoming place.
(By the way, this is a bog in the middle of the Isle of Lewis, one of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, and an area in which no one has ever lived, says the author of this article, on account of the peat and holes and water–oh, my! More pictures of bog beauty can be found in this brochure)
Perhaps it is a place where a poor wretch has to escape to and live off of after some terrible misfortune- there, a new plot! But doesn’t that happen to everyone, that sudden flash of a story after a moment’s contemplation of a scene?
This is fun; let’s do another one:
a) A 1940s war nurse finds sanctuary from her work on weekly outings here
b) A CEO wanders around, yelling into her phone, “Can you hear me now?!”
c) A man considers whether to sell his family’s ancient forest in order to keep his business afloat
That one’s harder. I still like a) though, perhaps because I am unduly influenced by this series. And this is not to say that the other stories couldn’t happen in this place, it just seems highly unlikely. We all lean toward seeing a certain type of creature in a certain type of place, am I right? And when something unexpected happens, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but it’s neat to recognize that it is a break from tradition.
(This is a photo of the New Forest in Hampshire, UK)
Okay, final place:
a) A musical involving a hipster and her dog
b) A scientist discovers a dastardly new strain of polio
c) A secret gambling society starts to throw swinger parties with disastrous consequences
That one was almost too easy! a) all the way!
(I believe this photo is somewhere in New York City)
So what did we learn from this mini quiz?
a) Authors get asked a lot about where their inspiration comes from
b) Inspiration can come from certain types of places, such as a bog (just look at this fun outing!)
c) While we all have different associations because of our life experiences, some reactions can be widely shared, such as if a place is creepy, inviting, romantic, ghostly, etc. It’s interesting to see how this plays out in a whole culture’s outlook. (See this article that looks at Irish bogs + culture, for a good example)
Agree/ disagree with the above points? Argue below.