People have asked me before where I get my ideas for my writing. The easy answer to that question is from what I read and from what I experience in my day-to-day life. For people that write, they tend to see a story anywhere. I had a creative writing professor in college who told us to go to different locations to write poem assignments. He told me to go to a car lot. So, I went there when it was closed on Sunday. At first, I just saw a car lot, but as I walked around the lot a little more, I started to see things differently. That's when I wrote, "Car Lot Turned Parking Lot"
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I. From a car lot to a parking lot
a distant radio antennae shows signs of life
calm, silent snow flutters, covers their windshields
as dirt covers the dead
I walk casually among the car lot,
or park lot rather
engines are at the mercy of a beating pulse
your circuits are so quiet here
the salesmen have deserted you this Sunday night
I can hear the sewage water and 95th Street is halfway to California
You want out to 95th St., don't you?
But these legs can leave this lot
I have miles to the gallon
I walk casually amongst you
absent plastic wrapping and can brush snow off my exterior
I'm leaving. Time to go home.
II. [there's no salesman for this non-driver]
there's no salesman for this non-driver
there's silence, a car turned parking lot
95th Street might as well be Route 66
I walk amongst you, but don't look at the stickers
It's been a year I've seen gas rise and fall
And people talk about gas rise and fall
And people talk about camera tickets
And people talk about idiot drivers
I've watched the world through a slower speed
A speed of no car salesmen and no car repairs
And no stoplights and no stop signs
And my mp3 player as my radio
I am half laughing tonight as I walk among
the Hondas that sit here waiting for someone
This wasn't a perfect poem, but it definitely took a real place and stretched it into something new entirely. My license was suspended at the time due to epilepsy and I related to these cars that couldn't go anywhere. I felt their pain as if they were human. And poetry should have feeling.
People often think that fictional worlds are entirely just that, fictional. And that is true to a point. Even JK Rowling based some of her characters off real people. Professor Sprout was inspired by Rowling's mother, who passed away the night before she sketched the character. It is interesting listening to musicians tell where they get the ideas for their songs.
For example, with the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," John got the idea from his three-year-old son Julian, who drew a picture of his classmate Lucy flying in the sky with diamonds. Of course, the public thought the song was a reference to LSD due to the abbreviation of the title. This misinformation happened with another famous Beatles' track, "Hey Jude," where Paul wrote the song for Julian Lennon to help him recover from John and Cindy's divorce. Some of the public at the time denounced the song as being tied in with what the Nazis called Jews during the Holocaust.
I always found that it's important to write about what you know. That way, you can make your stories seem as real as possible. When I wrote my first book, Life and Death, I asked myself what would happen if your normal married couple wasn't so normal after all? So, you'll see a lot of normal married couple things in that book contrasted with a lot of extraordinary things. Writing about Home Depot trips, playing golf, and eating brunch is fairly easy. It's a good place to start. You just have to follow your characters and think what would happen to them if X happened or if Y happened.
A lot of times stories start out with a question like that. So take normal life events and stretch them. Or ask questions that you would like to see answers to. Or, like in one of my last books that is still being edited, ask yourself, "What would it be like to write from a female character's perspective?" It was a challenge, but it was so much fun to do!
Find what inspires you. Pay close attention to the world around you, and the inspiration for your next book shouldn't be too far away. I've written four books now in two years. Two of them are out in circulation and two are in the copy editing process. Stories are all around us. You just have to listen for them.