Monday, February 28, 2011

Inspiration and... Cemeteries?

Sorry for the lateness of the post, guys. This last week and weekend was utterly killer.

(As an aside, my response to Sarah's post on Tuesday... I'm such a pantser it's not even funny. Even when I try to plot, I'm a miserable failure. This last WIP I wrote out the entire plot from beginning to end on stickies, worked on it for ages, but already I've deveated from it. Tragic, right? So many sticky-lives, lost.)

I thought I would talk a little about inspiration today, and what inspires any number of things in writing. When I first started getting into actual novel writing (as opposed to short pieces of work that were never finished, along with fan-fiction) I heard a lot of more seasoned writers talking about how they would often use real-life experiences and weave them into their work. At the time, I thought, "I could never do that. It would be too weird."

But the more I write, the more I notice little signs of my real life woven between the lines. Places are especially important in my current WIP, which is set in a fictional version of my city and has some fantastic and interesting locations. (Like the underground tunnels in Old Sacramento where the original city was built.)

Now and again, it will be one of these places or a line that someone says that inspires a scene, no matter how small and insignificant. This last weekend, I went to the Old City Cemetery here in Sacramento and it, too, inspired me to set a scene there. (I also learned there are possibly hundreds of bodies buried under Broadway Street just outside the cemetery. Random fact. You're welcome.)

To switch gears a little... easily my biggest inspiration, though, is music.

I have a hard time writing if something isn't playing that matches the mood. It's why I keep a running playlist for all my works, so I can put the right music on and immediately get myself in the groove for any particular scene or character.

(Someday, I hope all these fancy e-readers have some kind of interactive tool where authors can assign songs to certain parts of the book if the reader wants to listen while they read. WOULDN'T THAT BE COOL? ... I thought so, anyway.)

For anyone wanting some awesome mood music without real vocals, I would check out the band E.S. Posthumus. You might recognize some of their work from a lot of movie trailers, like the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean series. Some amazing music.

What inspires you? Music, people, places? Do you people-watch and listen in for authentic dialogue? Do you like visiting new places in hopes of finding your next story or scene setting?


  1. Music definitely. I'm working on three novels right now. (One is being edited, the other two written.) I have a playlist for each one of songs that are the theme songs for the book or have the same feel I want for it. :)

    Also people. I go people watching and TONS of ideas just flood in. xD

  2. I find that cemeteries have great writing karma as well. I grew up in them since my dad owned a marble and granite business, and I would go with him sometimes as he was measuring or looking up lots. The different monuments with their architecture is also so interesting. As well as reading headstones and wondering about the people and how they lived and died.

  3. I'm writing a story set in Ireland, and I would LOVE to go there. Alas, the funds won't allow for that kind of hands-on inspiration, so I've been settling for listening to instrumental Celtic music on Pandora. Awesome.
    It's funny when, where, and how inspiration strikes. You just never know. :)

  4. Qui, I do that exact thing with the playlists! And when I'm running low on music, I use Pandora to find new stuff. ;)

    Krista, I love them, too. I take a ton of photos when my wife and I go to various ones. The committee for the historic cemetery here in Sacramento do research on the people buried there, too, so it's fascinating to hear their stories.

    Wendy, oh, man. I would kill to go to Ireland. I wanted to set a story there, but I'm afraid to for fear that I'd botch up a detail, LOL. We sent my grandparents a few years back as a gift, because my grandpa always wanted to go (we're of Irish decent). He even managed to find a pub that was originally one of our family members' and still maintained the name even under new ownership.

  5. How funny, I had a similar post a few days ago on my blog, and I live near Sacramento! Must be something in the air . . .

    The Old City Cemetery is one of my favorite historic graveyards; love the really evocative statuary and monuments. And I haven't been in the underground areas much, but I hear they're doing tours again.

    Are you going to the SWBWI Regional Conference in April (Rocklin)? Nearly our entire crit group is volunteering and attending, maybe we could meet up.

  6. I'm weird because I don't get inspiration like that. I don't write to music like a lot of people do either.

  7. That's so cool about your grandparents, Kelley!!!

    Angelica, are you serious??? You guys both went and got inspiration from the SAME graveyard, and then you both blogged about it? LOL. That is too funny. There must be a lot of spirit in the air there. :)

    And Kelley V., your inspiration is all straight from the heart, right. <3

  8. I actually posted about a different historic graveyard, up in the foothills near where I live. But I've been to Sac's Old City Cemetery several times, especially when the flowers are blooming. Otherwise, our posts were along the same lines.

    Here's the link to my post, for the curious

  9. Angelica, that cemetery looks fantastic! What's the exact name of it? I live right along the border of Citrus Heights and Foothill Farms, so I imagine it wouldn't be far and I'd love to go see it!

  10. Kelley, I sent you an email with the directions.