Inspiration can come from anywhere– music, gossip, personal experiences, other stories. No matter what you’re doing, your brain is stockpiling information to use for later. The harder part is to actually produce writing from it.
When I sit down to write my brain isn’t absorbing new information (besides the feel of my pen or the sound of my keyboard). I have to use what’s already there. Most of the time, new information or “inspiration” comes when I’m doing something new and exciting without any way to write it down. When you start feeling inspired, slow down. Think about the way you’re feeling. Notice the details. Even if you don’t plan to write anything, taking a moment to observe will help you remember better.
When I was writing Aza, several scenes from the Forest of Monsters appeared very early on. The inspiration came from the Grottes et Préhisto-park in Réclere, Switzerland. I don’t remember much planning going into our trip (not unusual with my parents!), but it turned out to be awesome.
We decided to go into the cave first and then the “Dino Park”
(I have a feeling Aza probably would have been different if we’d reversed the order). The entrance to the cave was down a long concrete staircase. The temperature dropped with every step I took and I could feel the cold air rising up and brushing against my cheeks. When we stepped through the doors we were looking down onto a maze of twisted rocks that sparkled in the electric lights. Looking up to my left I could see the original opening of the cave. This was the hole I had Aza fall through (I ended up basing the cave in Aza almost exactly on this one). The light from the hole shone onto a narrow ledge that sloped downwards towards us. The tour guide told us (in German, French, and English) that when the “hole” was originally discovered the locals used it as a landfill for their dead animals. It was when the hole didn’t fill up that they realized how big it actually was!
The stalactites and the stalagmites were beautiful. They formed an endless sequence of twisting shapes. In Aza, she sees one that looks like Thorn Wolf– I saw one that looked like a fox wearing a cloak from Brian Jacques’ book Marlfox. I could hear water dripping into the shallow pools. Some of the stalagmites were smeared with black stains from the old torches that used to illuminate the cave.
When we reached the back wall of the main chamber the tour guide led us to the right. I remember looking the other way at a small, rock covered pathway. I wanted to know where it led. So I made Aza go that way, and now, because of her adventure, I do know where it leads!
When we came out of the caves the cool, overcast day felt hot. I could feel the humidity in the air pressing on me as we walked through the forest. Dinosaur statues loomed from behind trees. A T-Rex t stood guard next to the hole that led down to the caves. It looked small and insignificant from above– easy to miss if you weren’t looking where you were going. We crossed a small lake on a rope bridge next to a tiny waterfall. In the center of the lake two giant reptilian heads were locked in eternal combat, but you could almost hear their screams of rage.
Sometimes inspiration jumps at you and begs to be written, other times it’s shy (and doesn’t tell you that it will be very important in three years). Whichever you run into– don’t let it get away! You never know when it might be useful.