Where Do Writers Find Their Inspiration?

January 28, 2012

Creating Characters

David Pearce writes about how he found the inspiration for two of his characters.

Have you ever wondered how authors invent the characters that you read about in your favourite books? I hadn’t really thought about it until I read the first few chapters of Sophia Bennett’s soon to be published novel ‘The Look’. One of the characters is a University lecturer who has lost his job and is trying to become a writer even though he isn’t really any good. I thought this sounded like me, so I asked Sophia about this character on Twitter and she said that the character was based on herself!

Of course, any writer will use their own family, friends and themselves as the basis for characters in the books they write. (That’s why you often find similar characters in every book by your favourite authors.) I did the same for my novel ‘The Girl on the Train’ for most of the characters. However, the two central characters of Holly and Bobby didn’t spring from my imagination, and they weren’t they based on anyone I knew. They quite literally appeared in front of me!

I wrote my first, unpublished, novel while I was travelling up to London by train to teach in a Language school. One morning I found myself sitting across from two girls in very distinctive blue blazers. They immediately interested me because the younger girl was small and blonde and probably in Year 8, while the older girl was a brunette probably in Year 10. I found out that they weren’t sisters, just two girls going to the same school. However, they were quite clearly very close despite the difference in age and attitude. I asked myself the obvious question to a writer. Why? I picked up my pen and wrote a quick character sketch of each girl and within fifteen minutes I had the basic story of my novel. Over the next few months I saw them quite often on the train and I started to change their characters as I found out more about them. That happens a lot when you’re a writer. Some of the comments and incidents that appear in my novel are lifted straight from those journeys. The following school year I saw the older girl travelling to school on her own, looking subdued and obviously missing the fun she used to have with her friend, and the end of my novel pretty much wrote itself.

Whilst the two girls have probably now left school, and are in work or university, they will always be the two main characters from my first novel.

You can read more about David’s book, The Girl on the Train, here

A Wild Cat And Me

January 18, 2012

By Jean Cross

It all started with the crows
who lit upon my tree
and gave full voice to discord
and cawed incessantly.

I watched them hop all o’er the top
as twig bent under claw.
It looked just like an argument.
Perhaps about some straw.


Then I noticed something,
and my apprehension grew.
A feline form was climbing.
The crows all noticed too.


They flew in all directions
and left my tree quite bare.
Save for the cat still closing
on the crows no longer there.


I’d seen this creature skulking ’round
the farm just down the road.
It was a wild and untamed thing
and of no fixed abode.


But I’d never seen it up so close,
though perhaps it had seen me.
This ginger soul who stalked the night
so independently.


Then it stopped and looked around
and tried to turn half way
just as the wind began to stir
and the branch began to sway.


That was when I went outside
to get a better look.
Our eyes met through the branches
and we both knew it was stuck.


What to do? I could not leave.
Nor could I get near.
The branching was too thin up there,
the creature full of fear.


No use in trying to coax this one.
No words would get it down.
I’d have to get a ladder
to lead it to the ground.

So there I stood with arms outstretched
to push the ladder high
The first rung was now near the cat.
The final rung was I.


Of course I could not look at it
as it made a tentive move.
I had to supplicate myself
and stare down at my shoes.


But I felt it getting closer
and I wished I’d worn a hat.
For in a moment from my head
sprang a wild old ginger cat.


Then it was gone and I replaced
the ladder in the shed
and went inside to attend
the holes upon head.


Later as I ate my lunch
in silent reverie
I pondered on the episode
of the cat up in my tree.


And here’s the thing that bothered me
the thing I still don’t know.
What made that scarred old hunter think
that it could catch a crow?


Perhaps in some back garden,
or by some untidy bin
the bird might let it’s guard down
and the patient cat would win.


But at the top of a tall tree
the outcome was assured.
Danger for the sneaking cat
and victory for the bird.


But still the ginger creature
crawled out on a limb.
Driven by its nature
to a situation grim.


And here’s the lesson that I learned
from that old cat in my tree
let others do what they might do
and I’ll be true to me.


A big ‘thank you’ to Jean for providing this lovely poem. You can see Jean’s book, The Boots of Saint Felicity, here

My Pal The Bogeyman

January 6, 2012

How to be scared

Everyone likes being a little bit scared. Even if it’s just when your big brother or sister jumps out at you from behind a curtain and says boo. First of all we jump, then we scream, and then we laugh with relief when we realise it isn’t a bogeyman, right?

Just kidding.

Why we scream

There isn’t really a bogeyman. There are bogeymen—lots of them. And they seem to appear everywhere—bogle in Gaelic, bwgan in Welsh, boggel-mann in German. And when your stinky brother jumps out pretending to be him, it’s okay because it teaches us how to scream (to draw the attention of others) and run (to get away), even though there isn’t any real danger. And for someone like me who writes scary stories, the bogeyman really is my best pal.

Because that’s what being scared is all about—rehearsal for when it really matters. Or, should I say, mattered. After all, when our ancestors lived in caves, there was a strong chance that the big old shadow lurking outside the cave entrance might actually be a big old sabre-tooth tiger and then you really had to make a loud noise and run like the wind—or risk being eaten.

Getting your own back

So here is a little tip to get your own back .

The next time that disgusterous brother or sister of yours does give you a fright, just smile at them, shake their hand and say, “Thanks very much for saving me from that horrible monster.”

It’s likely they’ll give you a slightly weird look and probably say, “What horrible monster, pants face,”

And then you can smile a wider smile and whisper, “The one that’s right behind YOU!” before you turn and run away like the clappers.

I bet you they overtake you after ten yards, looking white as a sheet.

Now who’s scared?


Have you been scared, lately? What do you do when you’re frightened? Got a tip for beating the bogeyman? Then why not let us know? You can write to us using the form below – we’d love to hear from you.

A big ‘thank you’ to R A Jones for providing this post. You can read more of  his scary stories here.

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