The Secret of Inspiration

Last month, another writer asked me where I get my ideas. I was dancing with him at the time, learning a new step. Since I can’t dance and talk simultaneously, I answered lamely, “My head.”

But the truth is ideas are a dime a dozen. They’re all around me. In the news, in conversations with friends and family, in books, in dreams and fantasies. My struggle is finding the characters to populate those ideas—characters who will hold my attention for the six to twelve months it takes me to write their story. Characters I love and hate. Doesn’t matter what the idea is, I have to feel passionately about the people who will make that idea come alive.

SharingHaileyBySamanthaAnnKingMy first novel, Sharing Hailey, began as a way to live out my frustrated high school fantasy of having an older brother so I could date his friends. While putting fantasy to paper, I figured why not indulge in two hot friends and a happily-ever-after with both men who, while they weren’t perfect, complemented each other and Hailey perfectly. But as Hailey was on her way to a wonderful Hawaiian vacation with these two men, she was jumpy, nervous. It didn’t make sense. So we had a little heart to heart. I was shocked to learn that this beautiful, intelligent, successful business woman was the victim of an abusive boyfriend. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’d researched intimate partner violence (IPV) in an attempt to support friends who were dealing with it, so I knew how common it was. My frustration with all aspects of IPV spilled over into the novel. The fact that Hailey secretly had been dealing with that kind of violence made me even more determined to see her story through to a happy end.

While writing Sharing Hailey, I began to fall in love with one of the secondary characters, Landon—a shy science geek. I’m a sucker for the type, so I was determined to give him his HEA. I had the perfect woman picked out for him, but he resisted all my attempts to play matchmaker. When I asked him why, he said softly, “I’m in love with someone else.” The story he told me was so much more poignant than the one I had planned. Because of the secrets he had to overcome and the difficulties he faced, his journey was emotional for me. In fact, I found myself glossing over some wrenching scenes because of the pain. But my wonderful editor, Rhonda Helms, made me confront that pain, and the book, Waiting for Ty, is better for it.

Meredith, another secondary character from that first book, resonated with readers, and they asked for her story. I’m working on it now, but getting her to explain why she was so down on love was difficult. She’s got everything going for her, so you’d expect the happily-ever-after to come easily. But Meredith has been hiding a painful secret. And perhaps that’s why she caught readers’ interest. She isn’t at all what she seems on the outside.

For me, maybe that’s the key to inspiration—characters with heartrending secrets.

So here’s my question for you. What keeps you reading to “The End”? Great characters? Great ideas? A great plot? Something else?

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Comments

The Secret of Inspiration — 12 Comments

  1. I love “characters with heartrending secrets.” So far secrets have been an underlying theme in nearly ever story I’ve written–completed or not. It’s a topic I find fascinating. Identity and family also play a strong role in most of my stories. It was great hearing you describe conversations with your characters. I love it when a character reveals something about him or herself that was completely unexpected. It’s like unlocking the key to a puzzle. I’m always pleased when it happens.

    • Reese, can’t wait for the release of your book so I can read about your characters’ secrets. Sometimes when I’m writing a scene, I don’t know why it’s relevant to the story, but I feel compelled to write it anyway. Later in the story, it all comes together and that one scene which I thought I’d end up cutting becomes one of the most important in the story. It feels like magic!

  2. I enjoyed reading about your process, Samantha. I think writing is the only occupation where hearing voices and having conversations with invisible friends is a good thing!
    Jana

  3. LOL, Jana. My husband thinks this is unusual and that I should write a post on how these “conversations” work. I explained to him that every writer I know talks to “invisible friends.” It’s the norm!

  4. I have to say, having met you in person now makes me giggle to think of your “frustrated high school fantasy of having an older brother so I could date his friends” And yet I am so there with you, Samantha. I can’t imagine what life would be like without having that type of imagination to see inspiration all around.

  5. Hi Samantha,

    Lovely post! I smiled at your comment above about your husband thinking it odd to talk about talking to the characters we write. We forget sometimes that not everyone is lucky enough to have a whole population of interesting people running around in their brains. It can make sleep difficult at times, but it sure makes life more interesting. ;0)

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