To the uninitiated, being an author seems like such an odd job. In the first instance, how do they sit down and conjure up places, people and plot together, to create a story worth telling?
Most authors will tell you that their books were inspired (usually) by mundane events in their everyday life.
Here are some real-life examples:
- I once wrote a short story about a devout Christian who won the lottery. The story was inspired by a lottery ticket I spotted in a man’s Bible during a church service. I couldn’t help but wonder; what would happen if he actually won the lottery?
- My last project, Looking for Bono is a satire and was inspired by my work as a human rights worker in Africa.
Book ideas: inspiration is all around us
If you’ve always wanted to write and were too afraid to try, because you think your ideas are not good enough for a book, my response is this: you will never know if you don’t try, will you?
Kerry Nietz is one of my favourite writers. He writes inspirational science fiction. One of his books is titled Amish Vampires in Space. The book cover alone is enough to pique your interest (and yes, the book cover was a deliberate choice).
The premise of the book shouldn’t work (Amish. Vampires. Space. Hello?), but it does. Nietz is such a skilful storyteller that the idea does not seem so outlandish.
If you think you need a ‘great’ idea before you can write a book, I think you’ll wait forever. The Bible says that there is nothing new under the sun. I’ve been round the publishing block a few times and I can testify to that. The only new thing is doing something different with an old idea.
Think about all the following reality shows:
- Fashion: The Face, Project Runway
- Dating/relationships: The Bachelor, The Bachelorette
- Food: Masterchef, The Great British Bake Off
They all have the same premise. The only difference between them is the execution. The same goes for your book idea.
You are already surrounded by inspiration; stop waiting for the big idea, the right idea, the right time, the right anything to write anything. Just pick up pen and paper, or keyboard (whichever is easiest for you) and start writing.
I asked a few author friends on the inspiration behind their books and this is what they said.
My novel was inspired by…
I think a big part of it is simply training your mind to always be on the lookout for ideas. If your “idea scanner” is always on, then everything that passes through your brain is evaluated for idea potential.
For example, I’m currently looking for an idea for a speculative novella I’m supposed to write. I recently posted an unrelated message to a writer’s group, but it didn’t arrive. I started wondering about that place where lost e-mail messages go, and suddenly I had an idea for the novella! Just because my idea scanner was on.
Artists and photographers train their brains to always be watching for a beautiful composition or beautiful light or a beautiful landscape, and I think it’s the same for novelists. Jeff Gerke.
My book, Messenger by Moonlight, is a historical romance and was inspired by the women who worked behind the scenes (and who’ve been ignored by historians) fuelling the men who rode for the Pony Express in the 1860 American West. Stephanie Grace Whitson
My book, Heaven’s Strain, is a genetic suspense with a supernatural strain, a ‘what if’ inspired by a verse from the Bible: Genesis 6:2 “That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” Sunni Jeffers
My book, Torrents of Destruction, is a romantic suspense about a white-water rafting adventure that was inspired by my husband’s rapid trip down the Gauley River. Robin Caroll
My book, Whispers of the Bayou, is a mystery about long-buried family secrets, and the idea came to me one day when I was breaking ground for a new garden. As I dug, I unearthed an old plastic doll’s head, which suddenly gave me the idea of a character also digging but running into an actual human skull instead. 🙂 Mindy Starns Clark
My novel, Second Opinion, is about a small-town hospital and the heartbreaks, dramas, and romances of the people who work and live there. Being married to an ER doc is a major inspiration for telling some fascinating stories, and I just had to write about them. Hannah Alexander
My science fiction epics Amish Vampires in Space and Amish Zombies from Space were inspired by true events! Literally ripped from the headlines! Kerry Nietz
My novel, Baron Of Godsmere, is a historical romance that stirs facets of twenty-five years of volunteer service with a domestic violence agency into my love of the medieval time period. Tamara Leigh, USA Today Bestselling Author
My book (but written with Pablo Martinez, so should that be ‘our book’) Tracing the Rainbow was written because you cannot say to people ‘don’t say this, that or the other to the bereaved.’ But you can write a book in which you ask the bereaved what helped them – and what didn’t. Alison Hull, writer and editor
You’ve heard it from those who’ve done it; book ideas can come from anywhere.
I hope these authors’ stories have inspired you to start your own book project. And what better time to start than now?
Also published on Medium.