Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Professor Brian Cox painted
 the wonders of the solar system on BBC 2.
How do you start a new project?

For me, the initial spark is visual. The image of a place, in time or space, spins for a moment. I blame documentaries. Who makes a documentary unless they have identified a setting with extraordinary natural beauty or great peril? The obstacle is explained in great detail. No wonder so many of my ideas started off on the Geographic Channel or the many channels of the BBC.

Once the idea has germinated, I look for ways to heighten the tension and make my MC face ever greater challenges. If there is a worst case scenario, that is a good place to start making the situation worse. ;)

At this point I consider possible themes:

  • love
  • coming of age
  • betrayal
  • isolation
  • survival
  • deception
  • alienation
  • loss

At some point between the start of the programme and the end of the debate about themes there are already images of the individuals who inhabit the setting, and snatches of conversations between them, echoing in my head. I play detective:  I don’t think who should be living here? I piece together the characters who are already there. As part of my how-can-I-make-things-more-complicated-for-my-MC process, one of the things I do is wonder who seems to be least well-suited to the setting and consider putting them there too. 

Where do you find the inspiration for your novel?


  1. My ideas tend to begin with images too, settings mainly. And with the image comes the central idea of the story, thought sometimes I have to dig a little deeper, interpret the visual to be able to put it into concrete thoughts.

  2. Hi RS
    I'm glad there's more than just me who find the thousand words are not enough to write in response to a picture. :D

  3. Most of my story ideas come from dreams - so images, for me, as well. I try to organize those dreams for them to make sense, and eventually, as I add to them (when I'm not dreaming, of course :p), they develop into stories.

    Images are important to start a novel, I think. College lectures keep coming up with that one notion on the inadequacy of language...

  4. Hi Brigitte
    You are lucky, finding inspiration in something you already have to do is such an efficient use of time ;) I spent years not dreaming due to lack of sleep. These days I remember dreams - almost nightly. Dreams captures every quality perfectly, I get so frustrated by never remembering the dream as vibrantly.

  5. For life mainly, something I may have read about or straight from my mind. My next book I'm working on is an idea which came to me after reading a book. I was so disappointed by how the novel finished and it was nothing like I imagined it was going to be I just had to write my own version of the book. I have made huge changes so it isn't like the one I read, but my own story. It's more the story I was hoping to read, if that makes sense.

    Good luck with your writing

  6. Hi Jamara
    Good luck with your work-in-progress.
    Isn't it interesting how it real life and the fictional one in books can seem like one and the same thing?