What makes a great book isn’t always what you might expect. In fact, it’s usually a story that you don’t expect. We read to escape, discover, and learn, but if we read about mundane tasks that we perform daily, unless there is an interesting task, we may not get past the first chapter, or even the first page. So, lately, I’ve been wondering about what makes a relate-able, yet inspiring and surprising story. In a world where so much is already, and so little is new, there must be a way to create a new perspective, without being cornered in to venturing into pure fantasy.
My mind tends to drift to scenes that are relate-able to a wider audience - a setting that we all know and love and requires little effort from the writers’ end, to create emotional responses from readers. The ocean is one obvious choice.
We’ve all been there; we all know it from real life or from films and television. The ocean is generally portrayed in a relaxing, calming, reflective light. But what if you, as a writer, were to flip the perspective? What if that ocean was no longer a scene of serenity, but a place of chaos and confusion? What if the waves no longer dance, but are eternally lost? What if, through the curl of a seashell, you heard only shrill screams of distant tortured souls? The ocean scene in your story would then become a monstrous, trembling, nightmare. But the surprise is not the scene, it’s how it’s managed; how it survives and how it imprints on those who encounter it.
Writing the expected description of the ocean, even beautifully, is the easy route. You’re already capturing an audience who know how it feels to be calmed by the sound of the waves and the pure joy that being by the water brings. But as the saying goes, “Only dead fish go with the flow.” Going against the grain is a surprising angle that I’ve found to be helpful, both personally, as well as professionally. Writing to an unknown audience is thrilling and thought provoking. As an artist, it opens you up to new possibilities.
For those who have been writing for many years, it challenges you to go back to where you started and begin your writing journey with the unknown. For the newcomers, it only gives you a head start. For you will soon learn that practice and challenges are your fiercest challengers, and its these acts of faith that will develop your craft in a way that makes you stand out from the rest. It may even inspire you along the way. Because inspiration through challenges is what makes us, as human beings, grow. Without life’s tug of war, we would be motionless in ourselves, and in our writing.
It’s easy to fall into routine writing and the traps of familiar scenes. This is why seeking out inspiration is so important. Actors, musicians, writers, and painters all talk about channeling when they are working on their craft. I choose to call it ‘being inspired’. For some, it’s reading other people’s novels. For others, it’s talking and socializing. For me, inspiration comes from music.
Music makes me feel a certain way and when I feel it, I write. All of my novels have been written with earphones in my ears, sometimes it’s classical music, other times, it’s R&B. The genre matters not. If the song moves me enough, a story will develop. And when my playlist ends, I search for new music in odd places; the intro of movies, songs playing at dance battles online, and commercials. Music that inspires me can emerge from anywhere. Often times, it won’t be the song, but what I find after searching. I usually find something better. This is what works for me. New music also has a different effect on my writing. If I haven’t heard the song before, I get new emotional responses that take me to new places in my head.
Here’s where my stories begin to develop as novels!
Staying inspired by what moves you is just as essential as your perspective. They go together because one can only strengthen, if the other is truly present.