Seeking inspiration?

The search for inspiration is a never ending struggle, especially for the “part-time” writer – yes, those of us who have to squeeze are favourite pastime into what little time is left over in the day.

Today, as I was caught between appointments, I just happened to have a small window where I could catch up on the news on BBC World online. As I glanced around the headlines I noticed a “HARDtalk” interview with Steven Berkoff. It was only a short exert from the main interview, but what I saw got me thinking (and reacting).

As he was speaking, I found the interview to have a certain potency, drawing me in.

But their was something familiar about what he was talking about; I then realised that what he was describing was reminiscent of the life of a character I’ve been developing. Quickly, I got out my notepad and started jotting down some of the key words he was saying: reconcile, approval, resent, mockery, arrogance, etc. Apart from sourcing key vocabulary for a possible dialogue, I was “shaping” more of my character.

I watched the short clip again. This time, as I listened, I wasn’t hearing the voice of the Steven Berkoff, but the character; he had suddenly taken on a more tangible existence.

In that particular moment, listening to someone talking about reasons for their quirks or character “faults” was, for me, a great help for putting more depth into the character. It definitely painted new colours on a dreary page.

Now, before my eyes, I had someone describing my character and his traits, a task that I would normally have struggled with: trying to define, describe, seek the right words, etc., which is very time consuming (for me).

After watching the clip, I knew that I could portray my fictional character’s past with a little more conviction. It’ll need some tweaking, but as far as content, this short interview had proved effective.

I suppose the extract gave me a little push in the right direction.

As writers do we often try to create such important situations from our own imagination? Could it be that all we have to do is take time out to let inspiration come to us?

Using my own imagination to make the  journey of creation is a very time consuming effort, but is often rewarding when it works out. However, the time to design/engineer/visualise/ research the scenes/situations is always tight, so finding such relief from such a task is helpful.

I often wonder how it is possible to describe that which I’ve never experienced, never physically experienced. Why do I always choose to create such events for stories from a string of words and not a string of experiences, when all around I can see and hear a reality: all I have to do is look and listen… and adapt it to the story.

The journey to learn this “art” is long but enjoyable.

Here’ the link. See what you think. It may even give someone inspiration for a story



About Philip Shiell
A creative person who loves books, films, music, writing and teaching.

2 Responses to Seeking inspiration?

  1. theminstrelscitadel says:

    That was an informative read! I’ll tell you, poets have it easy. Inspiration comes, you rage on the page until the thing is done and then you get to go on with your life. The times that I’ve tried to write a novel revealed to me the real work of a writer. Very difficult. Character development was especially laborious, and your reflections here inform me of just how lazy I’ve been. I believe i will have to ponder what you’re saying for awhile and then see how I can apply it to my own process. I might even start a new book, or resume the writing of an old one…

    • I suppose character development is an exercise in self inflicted multiple personality disorder. You try and get into their minds and under their skin.
      This one guy I’m dealing with at the moment (in between everything else) has become a personal fave.
      He’s got major problems and I need to find out “why” he’s the way he is. What’s pulled him down to this particular level?
      Watching other people talk seemed like an obvious route to take for getting this extra info.

      The sad fact about all this work is that most of it will probably end up being shredded in future edits!
      Writing is all about saying what needs to be said for that particular moment in the story. Keep everything tight… don’t give away too much, always keep it rolling, never slow down, the story is king.

      I like “Naked”.
      “No cookie cutter repetition, nothing formulaic here…” Nice!
      You know, I’m not a rapper, but when I was reading this out loud (I tend to read my own writing out loud to see if it sounds any good) I got a rapping vibe from what you’d written. Freaky.

      Keep it up.


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