Natalie and I are pleased to welcome author Traci L. Slatton to I'd So Rather Be Reading today. Traci is here to talk about inspiration for her writing. Traci has written an outstanding trilogy, called The After Trilogy. Look for my reviews of books one and two this week!
Inspiration for Writing
By Traci L. Slatton
People often ask, “Where do you get your ideas for writing? What inspires you?”
This is a more complex question than it might appear to be on the surface. It’s a rich question with a juicy answer. Partly, I don’t know where my ideas come from, and partly, I can’t predict what will inspire me.
I write openly this way in hopes of encouraging other would-be writers. You don’t have to have all the answers in advance. You don’t have to have it all planned out beforehand. What is important is being open to flashes of ideas and to the process of questioning those flashes.
I’ll explain. On the one hand, there is a mystery about the creative process. And that’s kind of cool, you know? Mystery is fun. It leaves open the door to exploration and discovery. That’s a delicious element of writing and story-telling: the not knowing and the discovering along the way.
On the other hand, I am actively engaged in the creative process. It’s my livelihood. So I stay open to ideas. I actively court them, in fact. I think most authors do.
Usually, ideas for a story aren’t full-blown roses in bloom when they occur to me. Rather, they’re seeds. Often, they’re just half a seed. Some riff of sound comes to me, or an incomplete visual image, or part of a conversation between two characters. It’s a partial kernel, and I must be open it. That’s imperative. Then I have to tease out the rest.
For example, with FALLEN and COLD LIGHT and the forth-coming FAR SHORE, I was traveling on a ferry boat, and I was in a day-dreaming state, when I had an image of a landscape of destruction in which a man and a woman were walking away from each other. Immediately I sensed that they were both very strong. I knew they loved each other—yet they couldn’t be together.
It was just a scrap of a fantasy, but I pursued it. I looked closer at the image. The man was handsome, charismatic, and intelligent: a leader. The woman was directed, contained, and purposeful. She was a healer. Why couldn’t they be together? How had they come together in the first place? Oh, they got together because they were both survivors of an apocalypse. The apocalypse then explained the ruined landscape around my characters.
Then I asked myself, who are they? Who is this man and this woman, why are they attracted to each other, and what will become of them? Well, he’s Arthur and she’s Emma, and they didn’t mean to fall for each other. When they met, they were making the most of a precarious moment. It’s just that the heart doesn’t observe those kinds of boundaries….
So, for me, writing is a process of questioning. I get a half-idea that is the inspiration, and then I investigate it and interrogate it. Building anything starts with one plank, before there’s a foundation or a wall. I usually lay down that plank before I even know if it’s a two-story colonial or a palace with twenty-two bathrooms. Faith is a key element, faith that it will work out. For me, inspiration starts with openness, faith, and questions.