Archive for September 2012 | Monthly archive page

posted by on Characters

Tonight I’m taking a slight departure from my usual In Character segment to talk about why I believe characters can inspire some of the best writing. I always hear writers talking about finding their muse. Hell, I do it all the time, but what exactly is a muse and how is it important to the process of writing? One writer suggests that a muse is not “…an independent being who feeds out creativity,” but “our viewpoint.”

When I think about this definition of a writing muse, I think about something an author I admire once told me; you have to have more than a character, you have to have a story. Although I considered it reasonable advice at the time, I’ve found it hard to stick to in practice. A muse or inspiration comes from everything and anything. It comes from the simple snapshots your mind takes while traveling through your day; from the trainers draped over a power line to the stranger than fiction news stories you read in the morning papers. I often find that for me, it is in the persona of a real person or character I admire that I create a literary well to draw from. Maybe for you, it’s your favorite actor or an eccentric artist like Dali or Warhol. Whatever and whomever sparks an idea is important, because every story starts as an idea. Without it, what is there to write?

I believe that when we start limiting ourselves to rigid “ideas” of what inspires and what doesn’t, we limit our creativity. So take the image of that dark eyed guy you saw in the subway and plop him in the middle of something. Give him a new brain and make him walk, talk and act the way you want him to. Like Forrest said, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”