Monday, December 3, 2012

Digging Up Inspiration From the Past

Writers -- where do you get your inspiration?

This is not an easy question for most of us to answer because the sources of our inspiration is ever-changing.  From the people we meet, to the places we visit, to the things we read.  Inspiration, like the ancient Muses, lives and breathes around us constantly.

Because of the stories I'm drawn to writing, one of my sources of inspiration is the news section on  Most weekdays, someone on staff there lists snippets from current news items related to archaeology.  These headlines are collected from across the world and through thousands of years of human history, even including early human ancestors.

I've not only gained whole story ideas from reading these discoveries, but more often gained valuable bits of world-building detail to help flesh out stories that I'm already working on.  And these stories don't have to be historical.

For example, someone writing a paranormal romance may be very intrigued to read this article on a recently reported Medieval English skeleton with metal spikes driven through its shoulders, heart, and ankles -- a form of burial not only for suspected vampires but for social deviants.  I could imagine a young, unusual heroine running afoul of her society not only because of her paranormal abilities but because of her non-conformist practices and beliefs.

Or maybe you would be inspired to write a story of a man's quest to find the cave inhabited by a Native American woman which inspired another great story -- The Island of the Blue Dolphins.  Does he have some sort of psychic connection with the woman from another time period?  Would his discovery pave the way for a time-traveling romance? Or perhaps, could he be a descendant?

Or maybe you could envision a contemporary romantic comedy where an eccentric Civil War collector, in cleaning his house, has to call in the bomb squad to remove some of his collection.

I could envision a whole new archaeologist-style adventure series based on the re-opening of an ancient site (Karkemish) on the Turkish-Syrian border, one littered with mines, where Lawrence of Arabia once excavated.

Maybe you'd like to write a medieval drama of a nunnery run afoul of the church due to reports of bearing children and lesbian conduct.  It might be fun to create a Modern Family sort of soap opera with this unusual, historical setting.

What about a story of a youth in ancient Rome who suffered from gigantism, causing him to be at least a foot taller than all his friends.  Was he revered as a Titan-like being?  Or did he endure jeers from his friends?

Or perhaps one could craft a historical murder mystery out of two skeletons -- a 19-year-old woman and an older man -- found at the bottom of a Neolithic well in Israel's Jezreel Valley.  Were they killed together, having been discovered in an illicit romance?  Or could it have been an ancient murder-suicide?

I picked up another cool bit, but can't reveal that one here.  Keeping it for myself. :-)

Writers continuously draw from bits of evidence such as these and then let their minds go wild with questions that build their worlds and their stories.  But having real evidence to back up a story makes it that much more fascinating and the world building more lifelike.

So, writers -- where DO you get your inspiration?  And would any of these tidbits that I find fascinating inspire you as well?