Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Finding Inspiration from the Past

As we age, we accumulate experiences and knowledge.  We take these experiences and put them in our writing.  It may be a place we visited, a painting that inspired us, a song we heard, or a moment in history.  Whatever it is, it enriches our writing.

However, there are moments when we don't feel particularly inspired.  Writer's block hits us like a brick wall.  Our minds turn blank, and it's difficult to create characters, scenes or plot lines.  So how do we work past that? 

One way to create memorable characters is to take them directly from your personal history—your childhood.  Our perceptions were much different as children than they are as adults.  Dark houses seemed scarier, and old men seemed grumpier.  We can use those perceptions in creating characters by using these exercises:

·         Think back to the houses on your block.  Was there a neighbor who had oddities than everyone whispered about?  Maybe they never came out of the house.  Or they always yelled at kids for walking on the lawn.  Our neighbor used to trample on the flowers we had planted alongside the property line, even though there was plenty of room to walk around them.
·         Think back to a Thanksgiving dinner that was particularly lively.  Where was everyone sitting?  Were you part of the 'adult' or 'kid's' table?  What were the side dishes?  Were there china or paper plates for settings?  Was there laughter at the table, then whispering and gossip in the kitchen?
·         Think back to your least favorite teacher in school.  What was there about him/her that you didn't like?  The way they smelled or looked?  The way they yelled at the students or disciplined them?  The enormous amount of homework they assigned?
·         Think back to your favorite teacher in school.  What did he/she look like?  Remember the particulars—eye, hair color, glasses, sound of their voice, hair style, etc.  Bring those details to life on the pages.
·         Who was your best childhood friend?  Where did they live?  What was their family like?  What was your favorite thing to do together?  Why were they your best friend?
·         Who was your first childhood crush?  What color hair did they have?  What color eyes?  Were they the class clown, or the studious one?  My first crush had bright red hair.  His father was a dentist, so he used to bring me trinkets from his dad's Treasure Chest at the office.   He transferred to another school after that first year.  I was crushed in a bad way.  I still wonder what happened to Richard.

How about you?  What character from your past have you brought into your writing?

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