On Foolproof Inspiration

In Latin, the prefix in- and the root spirare mean essentially, “To breathe in”.
Inspiration. Breathing life into a story.
It can choose to settle in one of those BAM moments, when one perfect seed of an idea drops into our hands. Sometimes, we have to chase after it with a club.
Everyone knows that inspiration can be a fickle muse at times.
Many think that we have to have that BAM. We have to have a kernel of literary wisdom or a perfect plot to come upon us. We can wait. Oh, we can wait.
I’m telling you, if all you do there is sit there and wait, it’s never gonna come.
You have to be fully engaged.You have to chase after your runaway muse with a club in one hand to fend off the beasties and the other hand reached out to catch her.
What’s foolproof inspiration?
You have to turn on what author John Brown calls the zing meter.
The zing meter is this sort of idea detection radar. Any snippet of the news, any interesting event–if it catches your zing meter, scribble it down in a notebook or a Post-it to remember later.
We all have this zing meter inside us. Once we turn it on, to full blast, everything filters in. Let’s say you catch something in the news about an off-the-map, archaeological discovery.
Then you start asking the what if questions.
What if maps were forbidden in a place, so no one finds their way out of the land? What if they’re protecting the secret of the civilians–that the civilians don’t know themselves?
You can now develop it. A main character will rise out of the chaos. The poor thief whose brother mysteriously disappeared. Or even the daughter of the ruler. like the Hunger Games’s Madge Undersee. .
Curiosity. Intrigue. Revenge. Rivalry.
These are all good conflicts to propel an idea. Add bones. Then flesh it out with story.
Turn on your zing.

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