Stories come into being in all kinds of ways. They may start from a dream we’ve had, an overheard conversation, an image we see driving down the road, a newspaper story, or from hearing an author read their work aloud. Many of my poems or stories have come from these inspirations.
Author Neil Gaiman said his most recent book, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” started out as a story for his wife, musician Amanda Palmer. In an interview with Tim Martin for The Telegraph, Gaiman says that while she was away recording an album, he thought he’d write her a story because he missed her.
“She doesn’t like fantasy very much, but she really likes honesty, and she really likes me. Writing it was like going, look, this was me. You’re always interested in me. The family isn’t really mine, the things that happened aren’t really mine, but the landscape, the place it happens, is me, and the eyes out of which this kid looks are those of seven-year-old me.” Read more
Musician Amanda Palmer gave her first Ted.com talk recently on “The Art of Asking.” You can view the 13-minute video here:
Amanda describes her type of music as a mix of punk and cabaret and says that it may not be for everyone. When I went to my first Amanda Palmer concert in Seattle a few years ago, I didn’t know what to expect.
I’ve never pigeonholed myself as one type of music listener—I enjoy everything from classical to rock to country to blues to alternative—depending on my mood and what I want from my listening experience. And, I have to confess, I mainly went to her concert to hear her husband, author Neil Gaiman, read. Read more
Below are two blog posts I found particularly inspiring and enlightening in my writing life this week. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
New York Times bestselling author Bob Mayer’s post from last year: Pay the Writer makes so much sense. He writes about how we teach others how to treat us. This is true whether you’re speaking at a writing conference or setting aside quiet time to write at home. The video by Harlan Ellison is a hoot.
From last month, a post by my blog partner, Carly Sandifer, about finding inspiration in a commencement speech given by author Neil Gaiman.
Are your actions taking you closer to your goal or further from it?
In a commencement speech at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia earlier this year, author Neil Gaiman said he used the image of a distant mountain to represent his goal to become a writer.
When he was confronted with a decision in life and wasn’t sure what to do, he said, “I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I’d be alright.”
Hear other inspiring bits of advice in this 18-minute video.
I’ve always thought that as writers, it’s our job to experience life, including the bad parts, and figure out how to make art out of it. See artist Gavin Aung Than’s take on Gaiman’s speech in this comic.
Often, when I need a dose of writing inspiration, I turn to Ray Bradbury. I’ll read one of his stories, watch him on a youtube video, or memorize a favorite quote from him. Like many others, I found Mr. Bradbury to be a remarkable human being and writer.
Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for all you have shared with us. Below are three posts from other writers honoring him as well:
From author and musician Neil Gaiman: The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury — featuring an audio link of Gaiman reading the short story he wrote for Mr. Bradbury’s 91st birthday.
From writer Faye Flam a post on the most important thing she learned from Mr. Bradbury.
From journalist and editor Alec McCabe an article about the time Mr. Bradbury critiqued one of his stories and the three questions Bradbury asked (good questions for all of us to ask about our own stories).
How has Ray Bradbury touched your life?
In my last post, I discussed how to use the five senses to make your story world more believable—even if you’re writing about real-live gods and the dead coming back to life like author Neil Gaiman in American Gods. But what about the sixth sense of intuition? How can you use what is unseen, what is beyond the five physical senses to enrich to your story?
Contrary to what you might think, your character doesn’t have to be a psychic or a mind reader. You can activate your readers’ sixth sense by using foreshadowing or details that set the mood of a scene. Again, it comes down to using telling details based on the other five senses. Take a look at this passage from “American Gods.” What does it evoke in you as a reader? Read more
Sometimes, I don’t like to read another author’s work while I’m writing, other times I do. Since I began writing my current manuscript, I’ve started and stopped several books. But last week I picked up Neil Gaiman’s American Godsand haven’t been able to put it down. I find myself asking, “How does he do it?”
American Gods is a wildly creative and beautiful story. What I love most is how the story is so otherworldly—people coming back from the dead, gods walking around among us—yet feels so absolutely real as if it were playing out in front of me. Read more