Inspiration For Our Stories
I asked Gestalt Media team members to share a bit about where their inspiration for their writing comes from. Here's what they had to say.
By Dawn Hosmer
I've mentioned in many of the interviews I've done that all of my writing is inspired by a real-life event coupled with the question What If? Sometimes the event is something that had a personal impact on my life. Other times it is a news headline or show that triggers the story idea.
The question What If? takes on many different forms for me too. For instance, in Bits & Pieces, a few of the what ifs I considered and tried to answer in the book were:
What if I picked up pieces of other people every time I touched them? How would that impact my daily life?
What if a madman entered my mind either in the form of another person or a mental illness? How would that impact my thoughts, actions, and feelings?
The types of What If questions differed with The End of Echoes. A few of the questions I considered were:
What if my child disappeared? How would I feel? How would I respond? What would the impact on my family be?
What if I were raised in an abusive household where violence and fear were the norm? How would that have impacted my life choices? Where would I be today if that had been the case?
What if my child were murdered? Could I forgive the killer? Would the details about the killer's life impact my ability to forgive?
My next book, Somewhere in Between, releases in June. This was the first book I've written that wasn't inspired by a real life event, although some of those do make it into the book. Rather, one particular scene in The Haunting of Hill House triggered a set of what ifs in my mind that wouldn't let go until I wrote the book. Some of them that inspired this book were:
What if I could witness my own funeral and see people's reactions? Would I want to? What might I see?
What if I could travel back in time to some of the events in my life and witness them without being able to impact them? Would I be filled with regret, longing, happiness?
What if the person I married turned out to be someone completely different than who I thought he was?
What if I were stuck somewhere in between life and death until I resolved some of my issues in life? Would I be stuck in that limbo for a long time?
That's just a little bit about my thought process while writing each book. I usually know when I have a solid enough idea to write an entire book when the What Ifs keep coming and won't let me go. In each book, I try to dive deep into character's thoughts and feelings and put that on the page so that readers can truly feel and experience what they would in the situation.
I already have some new What Ifs looming in my mind to make it into future books. Now, if only my creativity would return during this stressful time, I would get writing.
What Kind of Sick Mind Thinks Up All This Stuff?
By David Voyles
That's a good question. And I guess I deserve it considering some of my…topics. There is a disturbing amount of blood pooling around my feet after I write.
I think non-writers wonder how any author creates elaborate plots with fascinating people that a reader may actually love and hate, but I think they may be especially interested in where horror writers get their ideas. Not so much because of any elevated sense of literary curiosity, but rather from a great desire for self-preservation. They just want to know if it's safe to be standing near you.
Spoiler alert. It's probably not.
I may have a disturbing interest in things that frighten most people, but I'm harmless. As much as I love horror movies and haunted attractions--my dream is to have my own grand haunted house one day--I'm too chicken to go see the REAL thrillers in the big theater, and the same goes for actually visiting most commercial haunted parks and houses. Too scary!
My lifetime fascination with horror is definitely where I get my inspiration though. I've always loved Halloween, and because I like to throw over-the-top parties every October with extreme props and decorations, by necessity I need to have some back stories for these scenes. For that reason, I often work backwards, creating a plot to match the scene my family has already planned or created.
Some of the stories in my upcoming book Tales from the Hearse and on my Dark Corners podcast came from stories I created for my guests this past Halloween. Our graveyard scene, which featured a wonderful projected image of the Grim Reaper rising up from the ground among the tombstones, definitely inspired the story "A Graveyard Dare," and the crypt we made in our den gave birth to the story "The Open Crypt." The clowns who sat with me for over a month in my writer's loft spawned the idea for the tale "An Extravaganza of a Lifetime," which asks (and answers) the burning question you didn't know you craved an answer to, "What do clowns want for their parties?" And for the record, I apologize for putting "clowns" and "spawn" in the same sentence.
When my family was running Dark Ride Tours, the ghost tour with a hearse, I had to create some Christmas horror stories for our special holiday tours since--hold on to your socks 'cause this is gonna shock you—most communities don't have their own Christmas ghost stories.
I know, I couldn't believe it either.
Well, naturally I couldn't let this appalling deficit remain, so in my hometown of Asheville I concocted a haunted story about a sweet, old gentleman that lived next to a cemetery so that I could tell his story to paying guests on a bone-chilling December night. Since the cemetery was closed after dark in the winter, I had to take my guests to an outdoor amphitheater that was adjacent to the graveyard, often waiting for a production of A Christmas Carol to be over and that crowd dismissed, where we walked a dark path to an equally dark arena, and they huddled together with hot cider and blankets which we provided. They sat on the first two wooden rows while I perched on the edge of the stage with a flashlight on my face and a projection of a fire burning in a fireplace behind me. That's where the story "Christmas Eve in the Graveyard" came from. Ironically, after all that, you couldn't see the cemetery because it was too dark, but I told 'em all about it anyway. This Christmas you can find the audio version of that story at gestalt-media.com/darkcorners and threaten your relatives that you'll make them listen to it unless they put the damn fruitcake back in the car!
When we decided to end the ghost tour business I had a handful of Christmas ghost stories and no audience, so I thought it might be a good idea to make a book of them. I had to write quite a few more to have at least thirteen (that's the right number, don't you think?) so I thought it might be fun if each story were based on a line from a Christmas carol. That was harder than you might think given my genre—horror--but I eventually succeeded, and those quoted lines inspired stories about wicked children, talking dolls, scary snowmen, evil Santas, and last-minute shoppers.
The irony there was that after I wrote all the stories and was ready to publish them with the appropriate quoted Christmas carol lines appearing right under the titles, I feared I might get into copyright troubles, so I took all the quotes out. If you want to play a little game, you can read the thirteen stories in The Thirteenth Day of Christmas and see if you can tell what line inspired which story. (It's hard, I warn you! "O Christmas Tree" is kind of a freebie.)
But the visual inspiration for one story I want to be sure to share with you. I stumbled across an article about ice hotels in Scandinavia that boast of hotel rooms carved entirely out of ice. You have to sleep under reindeer blankets in subfreezing temperatures, but that's not all! There are huge, incredibly scary carved statues all over the hotel. Including in your room! Imagine having the torso of a White Walker zombie from Game of Thrones coming out of the icy wall behind the headboard of your bed! So of course, that setting had to be included in my collection. In "You Better Watch Out" two naughty guests find out that their hotel, and Santa, have some pretty dark secrets.
There seems to be no dearth of material when it comes to finding material for a horror writer. Many writers simply look to the daily headlines; that's plenty scary! But I'd really rather offer a diversion from the horror of everyday life. We all get more than our share of real horror served on a silver platter.
I just want to offer a bit of an escape from that world, an escape to my own little haunted universe created just for you!
(If you'd like to keep up with David Allen Voyles' current projects and receive word of free offers and other fun stuff, click here to download a free story, "Captain Buchanan's Return." https://dl.bookfunnel.com/y83ic544jh)
By Jason Stokes
Where does inspiration come from? No. How do you make it stop?
Inspiration is like a muscle, once you start looking for ideas in the world around you it becomes difficult to make it stop.
Every moment is a possibility, every situation an option to launch a new story, series or plot.
The more you work this muscle the stronger it gets. Ideas begin to flood in, too many to ever take advantage of. When he died, H.P. Lovecraft left behind a notebook with over 200 ideas he never got around to writing. This is commonplace among authors and probably artists from all genres. Choosing the ones that speak the loudest, that have the strongest story to tell and the rest, well those keep us going. Something to look forward to. A reason to keep to going because until the last story is told, there's always more work to be done.