unusual sources of inspiration

To date, I’ve written two novels, one published, one in revisions, both fiction.   While both stories are make-believe, some of the characters, events, conversations etc. were inspired by true life events.  For instance, my relationship with my mother, the dynamic between two or more friends, my own dating experiences and those of my friends, work environment etc.  In my mind’s eye while writing my first novel, I didn’t picture famous people as the characters, but rather real people I’ve known.  Except instead of reenacting true events through my writing, the words the characters spoke and the actions they took were created in my head.  I think in my own way, I wrote my first book to get resolution on a few of my own relationships.  While writing it, I had different experiences with dating that inspired the plot of my second book, but it took on a life of its own pretty quickly.  And then I was stumped.  No inspiration for a third book whatsoever.  Until last night.

I had a dream, rather a nightmare, that woke me from my sleep and in tears.  The kind of nightmare that kept me up for a good hour, afraid to lose consciousness and return to the alternate universe waiting for me in my REM sleep.  Part of me also had trouble letting go of what happened in the nightmare and truly believing it wasn’t real.  Unlike my recurring dream about forgetting to go to my college classes all semester before the final or being chased by monsters, the tragic event which took place in my dream could, God forbid, actually happen.  Except that a portion of the dream also dabbled in the paranormal and I was struck with an idea for a book.  I jumped out of bed and only half-awake, jotted down the dream on a piece of paper and went back to sleep, still somewhat sick over the nightmare, but also excited about what could possibly be the plot of my third novel.  When I woke up this morning, I read my notes and, even in the light of day with cup of a coffee in my system, I think I might be onto something. 

Inspiration often comes unexpectedly and under strange circumstances and while I pray I never have that particular dream again, or anything close to it, I’m grateful for the muse.  If you are a writer or creative type yourself and care to share some of your own sources of inspiration, I’d welcome a comment 🙂


  1. Ronni on May 18, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Wow – what was the dream?! All my life I’ve had extremely vivid (and someimtes odd) dreams. I’ve had the same forgot to go to class all semester and then realize it’s final time dream….the recurring Snuffalupugus coming down Eldorado Drive knocking our houses down with his trunk (ok I haven’t had that one in about 30 years)…but I definitely believe dreams tell you something and help you figure things out. So good for you for being inspired for your next book! Can’t wait to hear all about it!

  2. Jeff Salter on May 19, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Yes! A lot of my ideas come in dreams, or as I’m falling asleep … or waking up.
    And two of my six novel ms. have significant portions which are based on real-life events. In one, I’ve melded an actual event involvng my wife’s ancestors during the Civil War … with another event which occurred later in that same community at the church where they were members. [In real-life, there’s no connection between those two events … other than both occurred in this community and my wife’s ancestors participated in one and likely witnessed the other.

  3. Marjorie on May 19, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Uh oh. Judging from the text you sent me yesterday informing me that I was the main character in this dream, I can only say that I hope it was not a premonition. Seriously though, you must fill me in…I am intrigued. And flattered that whatever happened to me made you cry.

  4. Danielle Mulcahy on May 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Great post Meredith! The idea for my next book actually came to me at 4 o’clock one morning while I was lying in bed, half asleep, half awake. The title and the general idea popped into my head somehow, and then that was it, I haven’t been able to forget it since. I’m going to start outlining it this week! I’ve also used a lot of my own life as inspiration from my novels. And I find the juicier my life and/or my dreams, the better the story idea!

  5. Meredith on May 24, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Ronni – Snuffalupugus, huh? Priceless!

    Jeff and Danielle – thanks for piping in. Very interesting that inspiration from dreams (or half-dreams)is so common – never happened to me before!

    Marjorie, I’ve been avoiding talking to you about it because it upsets me but since you are my first reader/editor, I will tell you soon. XOXO.

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