Monday musings: Travel and inspiration

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“Where do you get your ideas from?” Cecily Pigeon (or maybe it was Gwendolyn) asked Felix Unger in Neil Simon’s play, The Odd Couple.

It’s a question every writer gets. While Felix, who wrote news for TV, could answer “From the news!” for fiction writers, it’s more complicated—and, I think, more fun.

There are any number of things that can spark an idea for a creative writer of fiction—or even non-fiction. Sights, sounds, smells, stories, experiences; the way a shadow moves over a wall as a car’s headlights sweep past; the way a friend hesitates before answering a question; the shouts of spectators at a football game; even the way clouds move across a darkening sky.

I just returned from a trip to the Czech Republic, where so many sights, sounds and experiences sparked ideas for different types of stories, I could barely write them down fast enough to remember them. In fact, I’m certain I’ve forgotten a lot.

Have you ever done that writing exercise, where you base a story on a picture? Here are a few images that can prove evocative.

This is an old palace in the Moravian town of Telc. Castles and palaces are easy. What does it make you think of? A story about a princess and a cruel king in medieval times? How about lost treasure buried deep in hidden passages, or a horrible family secret?

Here’s a picture taken from the plane on the way back. Those are the mountains of Greenland—yes, Greenland! This can evoke stories of lost explorers, or refugees fleeing persecution in a warm climate. How about a story about climate change? Reach deeper: the relationship between humanity and the infinite.

Here’s a shot of street performers in Prague. What story would you write about this? What if I told you they were playing “Stairway to Heaven”?

A new story

My favourite story idea from this trip to Prague came like pulling on the tiny end of a thin thread. You know how it is: First, the bit of thread you can reach is so short, you can barely grasp it. Pulling on it is as likely to make it slip from between your fingers as to pull it longer, but bit by bit, you get a better grip. Then it comes out, faster and faster, fuller and fuller.

I had an idea like that after attending a “black light” performance, a uniquely Prague form of entertainment. Not so much ideas of events or characters came from that, but more a feeling that Prague evoked in me: a city that at the same time presents mystical, almost magical impressions, as well as a long tradition of modernism and commitment to science, rationality, humanism and science.

What about you? What inspires ideas for stories in your mind? Do you have a picture you’d like to send to your favourite author to see what they might come up with? Leave a Comment.

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About Scott Bury

Comments

  1. Great post Scott 🙂

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