Posts Tagged ‘ inspiration ’

The Inspiration of Myth & “King” Arthur

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The last few months I’ve been reading up on myth and legend. They’ve given me some great ideas for stories but not just as-is. In an altered format, they can create something original and (hopefully) brilliant.

I’ve learnt writers cannot be afraid to change things: this is our job. The world as it comes to us is not always suitable for a retelling – bits may need rearranging, adding, subtracting…but let’s not get into the realm of maths here: we’re creatives after all.

Also, do not be afraid to take a tale like Cinderella or Thumbelina and make it contemporary, change the sex of characters, or setting, or emphasis. If you make this decision in order to create a new story, don’t be afraid to leave it unique!

Put in new names, clothes, etc! Let it be new, let the inspiration, the myth or tale that spawned your story, disappear. It will still be an influence or a starting point but your reader doesn’t necessarily need to know it was for you to have a great story.

As a last little tip to those who want to go further and learn more while they’re at it: unpick the myth. Find the meaning of the names, the places and their significance. Find where or how the myth started, whether it is based on fact or legend or religion.

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I’ve found in my exploration of the King Arthur legends that Arthur was not historical at all but a myth which is first mentioned in welsh poetry. The discovery of these early mentions created a whole new vision of Arthur – a man of the Otherworld, fae, faerie, enchantresses, giants and the supernatural. He is still a hero fighting off bad forces for Britain but these are supernatural rather than historical forces.

Based on this research, I actually have a novel idea in the brewing stages. A novel where Arthur is a crime fighter of the supernatural world, once he is awaken. I’ve bought books on the Celts and Arthur in order for other titbits of Celtic religion and myth to inspire me in this project.

So, I know it sounds kind of boring…but research can be fun! The Arthur research was a mix of documentary-like reading  and old, bard-like tales of the unbeatable warrior.

Some of these old texts are very accessible and actually very enjoyable! I laughed aloud at a few and *may* have found the original inspiration for The Hulk!

Hope this helps those stuck with writer’s block. Anything on the page in a first draft is the first step!

And, as always, feel free to follow me on twitter.

My publications to date: About Holly Ice

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Inspiration to Writing

I mentioned many days ago in my Pen’s Catalyst post that I have many folders of pictures on my computer. These are separated into “funny”, “animals”, “landscapes” and “people”. The two that are most useful for writing are, of course, people and landscapes. Before writing this I counted how many pictures I had in each of these folders. The landscape folder has 446 and the people folder has 116.

This discrepancy perhaps says it’s hard to find characters you like or interesting portrait shots. However, my landscape shots tend to have a lot of pictures within them that aren’t strictly landscapes, too. This ups the total.

Below is a sampling of my people folder.

As you can see, I seem to trend toward black and white photographs. I’ve always had a love for them so I’m not sure if this is just preference of the timeless and placeless quality of them.

The main point of having all these pictures in a folder is to inspire me. Sometimes I look through the pictures and don’t do anything. Sometimes I’m just fascinated by the colours and compositions. This may be the old artist in me or it may be the subconscious mind gearing up to a new idea. Who knows, who cares; the main thing is the pictures improve my mood and, sometimes, get me thinking, too.

  1. There are many ideas in these pictures. The first one for example: is it a girl or a boy? Are they running over rooftops or jumping over a wooden wall on the beach? Is it a war zone or an industrial area? Are they a thief of in costume? Playing a game or poor?
  2. The second picture shows my love for eccentric individuals. There’s so much you can ask about this guy and what he’s doing, where he’s going. He’s one big enigma caught in a photograph that I can play with in my mind like a riddle.
  3. The third picture is similar in this way. Only, here, it also gets me thinking about how I can use objects in different ways and create a new world with new values and preoccupations.
  4. The fourth picture is in colour, showing I do like colour after all! But, it also makes me think better of mankind. There is a contrast of one man saving food and material belongings and the other being, in my eyes, a winner, as he saves some beautiful little tabbies from the horrid water. News stories can often be great for these sorts of shots.
  5. The fifth picture is a bit weird. It did what a lot of pictures do in my folders: it caught my eye and wouldn’t let me forget about it. I always save these pictures. They somehow prevent me from scrolling on by. That’s good. You should save them to. What makes a wandering net surfer stop, will almost definitely make a reader pause in wonder, too.
  6. In the next picture I love the colour and bleakness of the landscape. It’s one of the shots that has blurred boundaries. It could easily have gone in either the people or the landscape folder. Sometimes I put pictures in both when they’re really blurred so I can always find them when it may be what I’m looking for. This picture tells a story in the still. Is she suicidal? Why? Is she playing with balance? Is she copying someone she’s seen before? Is she a ghost? What does her face look like? The questions just keep rolling.
  7. Now, this man in the city is also very interesting. His shoulders are hunched in. Is it cold? His expression is very ambiguous. Is he happy, crafty, miserable? The blackness of him in the landscape amplifies his character, too. He’s important in some way. It makes me yearn to create a world for him, a day and a story.
  8. The last guy is just like a song turned to a photo. He’s peddling an instrument home on a bike. It screams France to me. It’s also pretty surreal. There’s no discernible building anywhere near him. So many stories could be made from him or using him as a metaphor. Perhaps someone is taking something else ridiculously big home or riding into nothing?

Now here’s a sample of the pictures in my landscapes folder…

There are all sorts of pictures here from the surrealist art to the natural shot of a landscape. They are all useful to writing. Perhaps the bedroom tells you what a character is like, the sort of house they live in. Perhaps a beach starts a love story or a castle a failed siege? Landscapes can be used as much as objects and outfits to create a character, too. Perhaps your Charlotte has the temper of an ocean or is as flexible in ideas as sand. These pictures span a swath of ages and genres to me. They have many different associations and yet are all in the same folder.

My advice is to create a similar folder. You have been told, I’m sure, to have a notebook. This is your digital image inspiration book. Keep it fresh and keep adding to it.

For somewhere to get you started, this forum thread is where I get a lot of my pictures. (You don’t always have to do all the work! Sometimes people with similar taste have done some compiling for you!) INFP Forum Post  .

Now for the writing exercise!

  1. Grab a pen and notepad or a computer and blank document.
  2. Pick any pair of person and landscape and think about a short story or a poem including them both. The landscape doesn’t have to be the setting. It can inform their character. Similarly, the person doesn’t actually have to appear in the setting. Their qualities can be like a ghost in the landscape or the voice of the person describing the landscape. Give it a go!
  3. If you feel adventurous, feel free to add an extra person or landscape to the story. Maybe there’s a whole novel in there somewhere if someone can connect the dots!

Good luck and tell me what you get up to here or here!

What Your Shoes Say About YOU :)

This is a little writing technique similar to ones I’ve been taught. I’ll show you two full outfits and then we can assess the character of the people who may wear them. This is easy character creation but also gives new ideas for how to describe pre-existing characters.

This is a woman – unless you have transvestite or transsexual ideas for characters.
Now let’s think of adjectives for her; sassy, formal, well-turned-out, posh, snobby, moneyed, rich, spoilt, fashionable, workaholic, fitness freak, minimalist…
You get the idea. The clothes give you some associations to work from.

Here’s a very different outfit.

This to me would suggest insecurity because of the layers or a scene-ness. Perhaps a punkiness, casual, street sports, attitude, sassy-ness, talks back, stays up late, creativity, sexual, if not insecure than confident. Perhaps this is a bravado…

Try creating your own characters in this way – search google images or look on your favourite and most hated clothes sites. Or give these characters a go. View the outfits, form your own evaluations of their character and write a story with both of them in.

Let me know if anything is useful and share if you want to!

Is My Novel in Tune? *Writing Soundtrack*


It has been too long since I last posted. I went home for the weekend, enjoyed the countryside but this doesn’t matter.

Music is today’s issue. Long journeys are best for music – by car, by foot, train, aeroplane. They zone out those horrible little munchkins that sit and scream on their mother’s knee. Spoilt brats. They stop the incessant beat of some hoodlum’s tasteless music. Besides all that, they give you an excuse not to have to talk to the last individual.

However, music is helpful for writing, too. I usually find I need silence when I’m first getting into the world I’m writing. I need to wander through their lives and this takes concentration, not beeping alarms and drunken warbles.

These things are, of course, all very useful for inspiration…just not the practicalities of getting started!

A lot of famous writers have admitted writing to music, too. So, what’s the allure?

Does the genre of music change the subject or tone of what you’re writing? Does it change the speed in which you write? Do the beats of the music naturally occur in the prose/poetry you produce?

This exercise should give you some answers to these questions and help you plan a soundtrack to your novel writing hours, should you want/need one.

I’ll try it first and analyse what I get. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A computer or notepad & pen.
  2. A stop clock: Timer (It’s free)
  3. Some videos/music from your mp3 player of choice.

I suggest you play the same songs/similar ones to me when first trying this to see if you get similar results but you are welcome to experiment.

The videos that I use (just below) have been placed on repeat. You can do this with youtube by going to the video you want and deleting the “uk.” or “au.” etc out of the URL bar before “youtube.com/”. Then change “youtube.com” to “youtuberepeat.com” and keep the rest of the URL the same.
Press enter and the song should be on repeat.

This allows each piece of writing to be effected by only one song.

Now, write without stopping (as far as it is possible to) and didn’t judge what you’ve written. No editing beyond spell check! Deal? Deal.
You can either time your writing or just write till you come to a natural end. I’m the latter kind of writer so have set no time limit.

This is what it inspired me to write:

The door slammed, a splash of water ruining her suede heels. She wiped her eyes, smearing the running eye liner, and blinked into the night. Prickles erected the hairs on her shoulders as water dotted her skin. Ignoring it, she checked the alleyway.

A cat was under the rubbish bin, its eyes flashes of colour reacting to every headlight, but she didn’t notice. she only saw the bin bag pyramid, the wet rankness that went hand in hand with damp cardboard and newly watered walls outside a waterhole.

Smiling, she hiked her tights, pulling a new hole into the smooth material, and took out her phone as she headed for the main street. It was an old thing: white scratches nicked the paintwork and the often bashed screen dulled its back-light with tiny trenches in the glass.

The clap of her heels was soon hidden by the screech of old breaks in double decker buses, the distant horn of an angry driver and the always present whir of a police car on patrol.

“Drop the phone.”

The words were cut by the metal at her neck. It was ungiving, maybe a thumb’s width at most. But, he had a posh accent. He spoke proper. She thought she could reason with him.

“Sorry honey, do I-”

“Don’t turn around.”

She stilled her neck, bit her lip and dropped the phone from her hand. It crashed to the floor, the last straw in their abusive relationship, and split into parts.

This took me around 15 minutes. (Sorry, I forgot to time it). Obviously, there will be some problems with it as it’s a first draft and unedited. That’s normal. What I will try to work out is if there are any simularities to the music.

For one, I had it rain in the scene. This is intrinsic to the song. I also seemed to have played off the beginning of the video and the images of 90s clubs that the video showed. I went for a young woman around the age of Shirley Manson when she sang the song and the melancholy feel to the track played out in the dangerous swing at the end of this section of prose. It also shows itself through how unaware the girl is, caught up in her good night out.

The echoing feel of the music could also have played into the auditory sounds in the story; the clap of her heels, the splash of the water, the screeches and whirs of the street. It has brought more than just the sense of sight to the story.

It took about 5/6 playthroughs of the song to write this much but it didn’t bore me when I finished, I just found a natural break in the piece.

I’ll try this exercise again with what you will (hopefully) agree is a very different style of music. This time I’ll try my best to remember to time it!

I grabbed my shoes and ran out the door, bag over one shoulder. The bus was at the stop, the end of the road. One minute. I sprinted, the bash of the bag bruising my back. Damn thing. I gulped air and reached the bus door as the doors started to squeak  The driver kept the door open, glaring. He’d have to deal. I nodded at him anyway, delivering my best good girl smile. His lips didn’t even move. Bad day or not, he was a jackass.

I moved down the bus, fingering the wire to my ipod around my neck. Most chairs were full. I could smell the nappy of a sleeping child. The mother stared out the window, eyes blinking with the break of the white stripes on the road. At least one person couldn’t taste the stench, then. Lucky cow.

A guy at the back was alone, reading the newspaper. The rustle was stupidly loud as I sat down. I looked over, to see what was so interesting. It looked financial. Boring. I covered my ears in music and zoned into my newest big thing: The Thumps. They had music right. It thumped, it moved, it sang. My feet bobbed on the chewing gum floor and added new black streak marks to its pattern. I liked to think of them as my feet’s sheet music. I’d be able to write it all down some day, after the classes, after I’d learnt all the moves.

the bus stopped and I jumped down, imagining a pirouette as I landed, absorbing the force of the fall. The great pillars of the contemporary dance academy posed above me. I forced my feet to a slow, decorous walk and tried to keep my face serene, serious.

It was a losing battle.

The inside was just as impressive. Wooden panelling reached half up the wall and above that leafy wallpaper spread to the painting ceiling. It was old world, grand. A bony lady, wrinkled and sat sideways in her seat, watched me carefully. She saw that my outfit was wash-bobbled, that the shoes wrapped around my wrist were scuffed threadbare. Well, fuck her.

“Sara Wilbury. I’m here for the six o’clock session?”

The grey haired matron checked her lists and grimaced when she found my name, checking it off; she couldn’t send me away, after all. Ha!

“Second door on the left. Be good.”

I snorted. I am and that’s her problem. You have to be good to get in here and this is not going to be the last she sees of me.

“See you again tomorrow, lady.”

I said the last with just the right spice of sarcasm and slipped through the floor to ceiling brass-knobbed doors. My first day. Here it is!

This took me 14 minutes and 16 seconds to write or 5 playthroughs. Again, there are mistakes. There are places where paragraphs need to be split or description added etcetera but it has the bare bones of a beginning.

The song actually really helped me for this one. The fast paced beat to the track helped me get into the mind of an energetic teenager who’s as excited and passionate about their day as a four year old on their first day of school. The prose therefore reads fast, almost as stream of consciousness.

The class issues it speaks about are probably what helped me create the conflict with the public and the secretary too.

So, give it a go. Maybe music can create ideas where you didn’t have any. As I can tell you honestly, I had no story ideas in my head at all until I started writing to these tracks. Give it a go! It doesn’t take long, promise.

You might even find something you like and want to expand.

Even if you don’t, perhaps this exercise helped in other ways. It’s possible it has taught you what works and what doesn’t. For instance, on a slow writing day a fast paced song might help you punch out those words or a particular theme of music might help for a certain genre of writing. Experiment with it and find what fits.

***The pictures in this post are all picture I’ve found after doing the exercises to give you something to go with the story, for the more visually inspired. ***

As usual, I still have a twitter.

If you want to contact me in general though, feel free to comment or message me either here or there.

In case you’re interested, my next post will be about characterisation.

The Pen’s Catalyst

Today I’ve entered the National Poetry Competition which is one large chunk of poem off of my mind. I’m now turning to short stories to fill my time and (hopefully) my repertoire.
But it’s hard. Stories have to have stronger characters, longer (or bigger) ideas.

It has taken me a while to get started so I thought I’d share some ideas for inspiration as we all have good and bad days at writing. The thing that often eludes us is a good idea. At least, that’s what I find. So where do these ideas come from?

This is my writing desk on a good day: sunny and equipped with both a pen and a notepad. It’s also clear and free of plates or rubbish, for once. The thing is, a good writing space is not a creation machine for creative ideas. It is an area free of distractions (especially the internet!) which provides a fertile ground for ideas to grow.
However, the ideas are often found in other ways…

I’ve been told to read, read and read some more if I stuck. Galleries, museums and exhibitions are always a good idea too. Or travel! I’ve often found a really atmospheric picture will spark something in my mind.

I have a huge collection of landscapes are portraits on my computer in various folders which, in some way, have sparked the imagination or caught my attention. This one, for example, did both. The photo shows almost every hue of blue. I expect some don’t even have names in English. Not only that, but the picture asks questions: what are people like that have to survive such a cold, hard environment? Do they live in tribes, families or larger communities? What is the world like without the blemish of larger civilisations?

These questions and curiosities are useful; if they captivate you, chances are, they will captivate a reader of something you’ve written about it, too.

Therefore a great place to start for story ideas is always what interests you. What are you passionate about that you haven’t written about? Think about writing a story about it. Think about some original characters, a storyline. Use your hobbies, your profession – professions of your friends even! Even a country your ancestors came from could be interesting, if you are passionate about it.

Sometimes a situation can work, too. Two people inside an elevator or lovers discovered in a field by their religious parents. It might be possible to pool locations, professions and actions in a bag and draw out one of each – see what comes up!

If all else fails – write about the people outside your window. What do they look like? How do they walk? How can you describe their exact gait to get it perfect in the reader’s mind? Write from the point of view of this character – what are they interested in, what do they like, dislike? Are they educated or dumb? Able-bodied or handicapped?

This exercise could help you find a character you’re happy with. Someone you’d want to follow for a short story or even a novel.

If these people aren’t interesting, why not search for emotive portraits on the internet or deviantart? Find something that interests you or sparks and idea and get writing!

These two, for example, are pictures of very different people that have caught my attention and made me think about their story, their lives.

One last suggestion; I’ve once been so stuck I’ve resorted to primary school tactics and picked story starters from the internet like:

“A fire started in the middle of the room….”

“My hair fell to the floor in a heap.”

“…and that’s when the window exploded.”

Any random idea for a story starter, like these, write it down – you never know when it could come in handy!

Do you have any other examples of what starts stories off for you? Let me know!
And, as usual, if you want to hear more from me, here’s my twitter page: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

“Madness”: What/Who is it and is it REAL?

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So you’re asking – why is this on a writing blog? It’s inspiration – many ideas in psychology or philosophy have helped me start a story, come up with something out of the ether, so to speak.

Madness has been a big topic this fortnight, too, with even influential individuals such as Stephen Fry tweeting in order to try and reduce the “stigma” of madness with the tagline #proudtobemad. However, there is a serious side to this debate, too – madness isn’t really defined.

Some could say, it isn’t real.

Rosenhan (1973) creates an experiment to test the definitions of madness within american psychiatric hospitals for the clinically mad. He asked 8 completely healthy, mentally “normal” participants to enter different hospitals and say they heard the word “hollow” “thud” or “empty”.

On the basis of this, all the pseudo-patients were admitted with a variety of disorders. So, even the same symptoms can result in different diagnoses.

All participants were told to act completely normal after admittance and it was expected that they would all be released shortly on realisation of their sanity.

However, this didn’t happen. Instead, all pseudo-patients were watched through the stigma of their condition. Normal behaviours such as writing in a diary or queuing for food were noted down as obsessive writing disorder and other such “abnormal behaviours”.

Most patients weren’t released until months after they were admitted and, even then, they had to admit that they were mad before they were released – a mad person cannot be in denial, of course. On release, the participants were not given the all clear for madness either. Instead, they were labelled as “in remission”.

This, of course, shows how sticky the stigma of madness really is.

A later experiment by Rosenhan was also carried out where a hospital approached him suggesting they would be able to tell which patient was mad and which wasn’t. He agreed to send more pseudo-patients but he played a trick: he didn’t send anyone to the hospital.

The hospital over the weeks identified 41 of 193 patients they talked to as being potential pseudo-patients.

So with madness, there can be many false positives and false negatives and it is incredibly difficult to tell who is what and who isn’t. This is largely because much of the disorder manifests within a patient’s mind and the symptoms are likely to differ between patients with the same disorder.

I should point out that the documents used for diagnosis of madness and disorders have changed many times since this date but the point still stands: madness is a slippery subject.

In some cultures, it is mad to be homosexual. In Britain, many years ago, women were seen to “need” the doctor to induce orgasm in order to reduce “hysteria” (what these days is merely accepted as an emotional outlook on life).

So madness changes over time. It changes based on culture, age (children talk to imaginary friends – adults shouldn’t) and gender, even sexuality.

Madness is in fact defined as culturally abnormal behaviour.

Some people may like to boil a kettle 10 times before they pour their cuppa. Is this OCD or is it merely eccentric? At what point can we as a society feel justified in calling an individual mad? At what point is it acceptable to intrude on their lives and uproot them from their daily activities?

Is it not possible that although the “sane” are the “norm”, we are in fact not how humanity was supposed to be? Perhaps it is better from a survival instinct perspective to boil the kettle 10 times or count the cracks in the pavement.

Perhaps, the “insane” are enlightened and we are dysfunctional for not seeing their vision.

After all, many of the great men and women of the world were first called mad because they thought outside the box, ahead of their time. Or because they challenged deep rooted cultural ideas which, later, were not thought to be mad at all. (Think of the earth’s “flatness” here or the idea that the earth in fact circled the sun and not the other way around).

It’s useful then, if ever writing a story about the mad or the eccentric, or even thinking on how madness’ stigma effects society, to wonder whether madness is real or simply different.

Any questions, comments, debates etcetera, please feel free to write below.

Disclaimer(!): Of course, if an individual is ever worried about a behaviour they can’t control or an issue they are having trouble with, they must talk to a medical adviser and not use the information here as substitute. Some individuals can be a danger to themselves or others if not treated.

This is my twitter for those interested: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

The first picture was taken from here: http://brainbreaking.wordpress.com/tag/rosenhan/
This blog is a more in depth summary of the Rosenhan experiment. Feel free to visit it if you wish.

The second was found on a top ten of sex facts. If you wish, read about them below.
http://www.oddee.com/item_98314.aspx

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