Inspiration, prompts and chance encounters

This morning, the latest episode of Prompted, a writing podcast I follow was released. I cannot recall how I found the podcast in the first place, but it was a fortuitous find.

Over two series now, the show has provided a series of writing prompts, several of which I have attempted to produce a piece for. Some of these I have submitted to the podcast and they have been gracious enough to read them out on the podcast. Today was they read out another of my submissions, and I found myself thinking a little about where I find inspiration for the things I write.

The inspiration for my book Free City came from a variety of sources. I had been thinking about a world where work was increasingly automated for some time, and felt it would be a good place to set a novel. While I was attending a bonfire and fireworks display on Bonfire Night, I realised it would be an interesting setting for a discussion between characters about government and civil disobedience. And finally when I visited the Leeds police station custody suite (in a professional capacity of course) I was struck by the layout of the building and how it could provide a setting for the climax of the book. There was no single inspiration for the novel, rather lots of little ideas from the places I visited over the course of a year or so.

As well as listening to Prompted, there are a myriad of other sources of prompt ideas for everything from a short story or poem to a novel. One idea I particularly liked, especially if you are looking for ideas for a short story or flash fiction, was to press shuffle on your iPod or Spotify account, and then use the song title of the first selection as your writing prompt. I have done this a few times for short pieces I have written, and it has given me some interesting ideas which I hope to share with people soon.

The other area of inspiration, especially in my current works in progress, has been my work as a psychiatrist for one book, and events surrounding the lockdown for a second. If you have read my lockdown blog, you will have an idea about the content for the second book, so I will speak about the first a little more here.

I find the idea of writing a story where nothing much happens directly to the characters, but is rather explored through dialogue, a fascinating concept, as well as a challenge as a writer. It dawned on my a couple of months ago that I have experience of this is real life, having take patients through psychotherapy, and could draw on this to create a (hopefully) interesting novel. I have drafted the plot for the book, and have several chapters underway, and just like my short stories I will hopefully be able to share this book soon as well.

If you are wanting to write yourself, in whatever form or format, you can find inspiration in a variety of sources. Some of these sources, such as writing prompts, are given deliberately to spark your creative juices. Other ideas can come from daily life. The key if you are looking to write, is to have the ability to jot these ideas down before they are lost, especially if you cannot work on them then and there. Many writers carry a notebook with them to keep track of ideas. For me I make most of my notes in my phone, as I tend to have it with me most of the time. However you choose to keep a record of you ideas, and where you source these ideas from, the most important part is putting pen to paper and having a go. Who knows, the next outlandish idea you have might just lead to your first novel.

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