Another week, another snow storm. This one’s ice and freezing rain as well. Ugh! Despite having grown up in the Northeast, I am not a fan of snow, or cold weather in general, yet there are some good things about it – the holidays, and hockey (read: NY Rangers) season. That’s really about it, as far as I’m concerned.
But today’s post is not about the weather. It’s about inspiration. Writers live for inspiration, and when it strikes, it’s a truly fantastic feeling. It often pops up in unexpected places at unexpected times. Sometimes at really bad times, too. That’s happened to me more times than I can count. Nothing worse than driving the kids to school (or dance class, or sports, or parties) when an idea for a really hot story pops into my head.
Sometimes, I get my inspiration from various fiction genres, whether it’s a TV show, a movie, or even another book. Sometimes a bit of dialogue will trigger something, and the next thing I know, I’m off and running in a new world with new characters. I wrote a whole book based on one line of dialogue from a character in a campy 90’s TV show called Dracula: The Series. There are also times real events and real people will also spark my creativity. I think all writers are the same in that their inspiration comes from many different sources.
Lately, my inspiration has been coming from two of my favorite animated shows, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Dragonball Z. Both shows have recently come back into my regular viewing orbit, thanks to my son, who adores both of them in their current rerunning on Nicktoons. (YAY! Someone to share them with!) As my friends know, I tend to get obsessive about my fandoms. Highlander and Harry Potter are my two favorites by far, but I have many many others, as well.
In rediscovering Avatar and Dragonball, I’m reminded of the incredible talent of their creators. The rich world of Avatar is steeped in Eastern philosophy and culture. Yet at the same time, it is vastly different in so many ways. The characters are complex and conflicted in various ways, and the mythology of the series, while at its core is a basic struggle of good vs. evil, is deep and multi-layered. Many things that seem unimportant in one episode turn out to be of major importance in another, as Aang’s saga progresses. There are many dramatic moments, just as many comedic ones, and yes, even romance. Characters act heroically, yet they also act un-heroically or childish (the core characters are all under 18 so that is to be expected), but they are REAL. In many cases, I find their reactions or behavior to be more realistic than some of the current prime-time drama shows. In addition to the core good and evil battles, it is also a story of redemption, for several of the characters. The way they grow and change, yet remain true to themselves, simply draws me in.
Dragonball Z is another example of a world where good must defeat evil. Goku, the Saiyan warrior who vows to defend Earth, is always fighting off some threat to his family and friends, and the general population of our dear planet - when he isn’t stuffing his face, that is! I love Goku, but I do find him a little “too” good for me. He’s at his best when he’s angry and fighting, in my opinion. As I tend to prefer the villains in general, Raditz, Goku’s brother, and Vegeta, the Prince of the Saiyan race, are two of my favorite characters from the show, and both are most definitely on the side of evil, at least at the beginning of the saga. Raditz, sadly, ends up dead very early on, which irks me to no end. He is one of my all time favorite villains. Oh, if he had lived… And that hair - he simply has the most gorgeous hair, and for an animated character, he is one of the hottest males I've ever encountered. I love to imagine just what he could do with that tail of his!
Vegeta, also superbly evil with apparently no conscience, also dies, but thankfully, he is wished back to life using the Dragonballs. Vegeta’s story is one of redemption as well, at least, I interpret it that way. Sadly, as he is not our noble heroic Goku, we don’t get to see as much of his journey to the “good” side. He still retains his gruff exterior, even though he goes from being selfishly focused only on himself and his needs and wants, to showing concern for others and even proves his love for his family in a most dramatic way. Yet, always lurking deep inside is his embrace of the dark side. He fights against it, but it’s still there, lending a dangerous edge to his personality.
Both of these shows have given me some ideas for books. While I currently have my Magiste series at the forefront of my work, I have been working out various scenarios for other worlds in which to play. Magic and other superhuman skills play a big part in my characters, which may be why I am so drawn to these shows. Yet at the same time, I realize I must find something lacking in them as well. While they may inspire me, I build my own worlds and characters with my own sets of rules, tweaking and reworking them until I get them right where I want. Right now, I am learning the planet Aldarra is in turmoil, and citizens of the Aldarran race are going to have a big effect on a few people right here on Earth. An entire race is in jeopardy and needs the help of us lowly humans to restore the balance – and so good will triumph over evil. Yet, good is a relative term in my worlds, maybe it’s more appropriate to say the lesser of two evils? Currently, I have the beginning of the first book written, but as more characters have come to life in my head, I can see at least three total for the saga. My spreadsheets are getting bigger every day.
So what inspires you? What sort of things trigger an idea, a character, or a whole new world? Do you like to repeatedly write in that world, or is one time enough? I’m always fascinated by others’ world-building techniques, and love to hear about them.