@Ro Donovan who requested insight into my inspirations via my contact page. Thanks for the questions and suggestion, I promised I would cover it, but I didn't anticipate it would take so long...
“What words, people, perceptions, etc. have inspired what sorts of actions in the writing process with some brief examples (e.g. if a quote, or movie… inspired a character, or how to add to an existing one; how and if songs have inspired you…).”
Welcome to the darkside. No really, it can get dark.
I always write as male characters. I tried writing as a female lead when I was younger, trying my hand at the stereotypical attempt at romance (well, it wasn’t really romance, it was more of a kidnapping and stockholm syndrome, but yeah, call it ‘romance’). I gave it up after I realized that I focused more on the male character, and was way more interested in his backstory and character development than hers.
Gahhh, this is hard. How do I explain this…
I am inspired by the darkness. I am arrested by the broken, the fractured, the utterly fucked up. My stories aren’t meant to be light and airy, they tend to be heavy in some way.
I’m an emotional writer with some hints of organization (hence the focus on becoming more organized). I am triggered by emotion, empathy.
Example: The Last Samurai (2003 film) inspired my first novel idea.
Well, the first twenty minutes or so.
For those who haven’t seen this film (maybe, who knows), Tom Cruise’s character is an ex-soldier from the Indian War massacres that occurred in the US, post Civil War. Disgusted by his actions, he degenerates into drinking and a general downward spiral that escalates when he is summoned to Japan to help suppress rebellion on behest of the current puppet emperor. Weighed by guilt, he wants to die, but won’t do it himself, and so enters battle with a death wish. This lack of fear ironically gives him a second chance at life when he is captured alive by rebels (impressed by his fearlessness I imagine).
The rest of the story is irrelevant for the purpose of this post.
What captured my interest?
The resulting questions. How does one get to the point of not caring if they’re alive or dead? What kind of experience would bring someone to that point?
It’s a fine balance between anger at another, anger at self, with a fine pinch of despair.
How about revenge? Would revenge sufficiently motivate guilt and a deathwish?
Like a test-tube, mix and experiment.
The role of empathy
My problem (gift/curse it’s all the same) is that I tend to immerse within stories. If I watch a movie, that is very good story-wise and otherwise, I can channel the emotions of a character, and feel them as my own. Or, as much my own as I can, being it isn’t me.
Empathetic…it helps with capturing the emotion and riding it out, but it’s a rollercoaster.
When I was younger, I’d read books about people (military background) who got caught in the political death trap of double crosses, betrayal and attempted assassinations. It was hard explaining how pissed off and angry I’d get after reading a few pages about characters who were angry and pissed off.
A perfectly good mood right down the drain.
It does help for understanding and predicting what the character plans to do or react. Great for stories. Some decisions make sense when viewed through this lens.
Back to my example – Character inspiration
So, in reference to my questions from The Last Samurai I designed a male character who similarly dealt with emotions of grief and revenge, with a twist.
This story was a flop, mainly because I was too young to write about a topic that I knew little or nothing about. It always gets murky to, say, write about going to jail when you have no idea what that means or entails.
The idea is still valid, the character remains with me, but the whole story needs an overhaul in both content and writing style. I had my brother read it and he didn’t get it- a good sign that it wasn’t making sense.
Stop and regroup.
I look back and, yeah, it’s gibberish. The concept remains pure though.
Listening to music helps me focus, immerse into creating the story. I typically create a playlist with the following
- Some Gangster Shit (Alchemist ft. Fabolous)
- Get it Shawty (Lloyd)
- Genome (Fat Jon, Nujabes)
- Flashing Lights (Kanye West ft. Dwele)
- Mercy (Kanye West ft. Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz)
- Escalon (Shiro Sagisu)
- Shady Charade (Shiro Sagisu)
- Soundscape to Ardor (Shiro Sagisu)
- Princess in Captivity (Shiro Sagisu)
- Quincy’s Craft (Shiro Sagisu)
- Monolouge (Shiro Sagisu)
- Invasion (Shiro Sagisu)
- Recollection II (Shiro Sagisu)
- Wanderers (Shiro Sagisu)
- Attack on the Beat (Shiro Sagisu)
- Torn Apart (Shiro Sagisu)
- Swan Song (Shiro Sagisu)
- A Requiem (Shiro Sagisu)
- Phenomena (Shiro Sagisu)
- Requiem for the Lost Ones (Shiro Sagisu)
- Burden of the Past (Shiro Sagisu)
- Creeping Shadows (Shiro Sagisu)
- On the Precipice of Defeat (Shiro Sagisu)
- Poland Mirrors (Poland Mirrors)
- Forgotten Toy (Poland Mirrors)
- Darkships Return (Poland Mirrors)
- Room 405 (Poland Mirrors)
- Oscar 1208 (Poland Mirrors)
To name a few.
In a nutshell, this is my process thus far. I look forward to developing more consistency going forward.