All posts tagged inspiration

Writing prompts to set you fizzling and end that writer’s block

Published April 23, 2013 by Jill London
Writer's Block

Writer’s Block (Photo credit: thorinside)

While the debate over whether writer’s block actually exists or not continues, the subject of where ideas come from remains of interest to many writers (as a glance through the inspirational writers’ section of any book-store will show). I always think that, when you’re writing stories you are essentially accessing the body of experience that is out there in the world (that you’re a part of), all the personal anecdotes that people have experienced, all the trials and tribulations, and to select from these not just the most entertaining but the ones that speak the greatest truth – that are recognised by any race, gender or era as being empirically true. Looking for material (especially if it’s for short stories or poems) can be helped by looking in the right places. Here’s just a few of the ideas I’ve used in the past, and that I think might work for you if things get a bit, erm, blocked:

  • Inspirational quotations: These are a good way to pick up on universally true themes for your writing. The ones that offer a potential storyline should leap out at you for plot potential rather than being simply inspirational. How about this; “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” – Sigmund Freud. Who (apart from Freud) might say such a sentiment? Why do they feel that way? What’s their story?
  • Famous models: If their words don’t inspire you, how about the famous themselves? What might Hemingway have done on a day off (?), how about Katherine Hepburn, or Elvis? Whatever story you produce can be relabelled and refashioned into ‘a day in the life’ of any writer, actor or singer, or left as is.
  • Problem (agony aunt) pages: These should be fairly obvious in terms of providing an idea for a story, just remember to change the names for the sake of the innocent ;-). You may (or may not) feel guilty about plumbing the pain of others for your personal gain, but just think of it – you may be helping mankind into the bargain by writing about the problem – or maybe I’m covering for you.
  • Dialogue, be it from soaps, novels or song lyrics: Just a phrase now for inspiration (we don’t want to be treading into plagiarism territory here), but sometimes the odd generic phrase will be enough for you to branch off into a completely different (and legal) train of thought.
  • Photos as inspiration: If pictures paint a thousand words…why not use them!
  • Joke of the Day: That funny punch line could spark an idea for a comic piece; remember it doesn’t have to be the funniest joke ever, mildly amusing is fine so long as the story speaks to you and you can back the characters. This offering courtesy of Readers Digest; “I was in the car park when I saw a guy off CrimeWatch who was wanted for several assaults. I punched him and wrestled him to the ground, but the police arrived and arrested me. Apparently, they use actors in the show”. Not sure about the hilarity value but as the potential for a short story? Maybe you could do something with it…
  • Prompts taken from everyday situations: He was left in the lurch, next on the news…, she had an appointment with…, they’re not as innocent as they seem, the payphone was out of order…
  • Phrases, adages, maxims: Waste not want not, a bad penny always turns up, it takes two to tango, no smoke without fire.

But remember whatever ideas come your way, write freely, write with passion and for goodness sake, enjoy it! And it’s over to you! If you’re feeling stuck for inspiration why not try out some of these ideas. Let me know how you get on and I’ll include a link to your work so others can see what you did, a bit like a bloggish fridge door 😉

Keep smiling and stay awesome guys.



Walden – Henry David Thoreau

Published April 17, 2013 by Jill London
Original title page of Walden featuring a pict...

Original title page of Walden featuring a picture drawn by Thoreau’s sister Sophia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. . . . In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

Henry David Thoreau

Maeve Binchy on what makes a page turner

Published April 8, 2013 by Jill London

Page-turn·er  n. Informal – A very interesting, exciting, or suspenseful book, usually a novel.

Today, in our writers corner is a short video clip of Maeve Binchy speaking about characterization and what makes a page turning story. I think Maeve picks up on some important points here in a nicely succinct and encouraging way.

Pace is, of course, vital to creating a page-turning novel but it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean 100% overdrive at all times. Readers can get burned out. They need peaks and valleys, excitement teamed with periods of reflection or planning when the characters take…a pause. From there the reader is ready for the ride once more. Too much all at once can actually be an enormous turn-off for the reader, who will most likely feel swamped and confused by too much adrenalin in a novel. If you are confused about the idea of peaks and valleys let me direct you to Jack Bickham’s 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes.

When you do write those peak scenes make sure that they are real heart-stopping nail-biters, make your reader hang on your every word and above all be sure that they care about what happens next – that they are vitally invested in those characters. Be sure that you have wrung every ounce out of every scene because it’s all too easy to sit back contented too soon. You, the author, are your protagonist’s worst enemy, don’t give them any easy breaks, throw them into all manner of trouble any time you find the chance. Your reader will love you for it and, what’s more, they’ll be coming back to you for more of the same.

See also: The perennially useful Writers and Artists website on the Seven secrets of writing a page-turner by Emma Bowd.

Do you have a vital formula that you’d like to share for the perfect page turner? How should writers go about dealing with pace in their novels? Your comments are always appreciated.

The Gleaners – Jean-François Millet & Economy – Henry David Thoreau

Published March 31, 2013 by Jill London
The Gleaners - Jean Francois Millet 1857

The Gleaners – Jean Francois Millet 1857

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

Economy – Henry David Thoreau

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