My Blog


Making and Breaking Worlds

Perhaps that’s why writers love what they do – because it’s a little bit like playing god, isn’t it? We decide who lives and who dies. We create characters who are capable of the direst deeds, and of the most altruistic actions. We can build cities up, then tear them to the ground only a paragraph later. Oooh, it’s powerful, isn’t it?

But where do those worlds and characters come from?

Before some scientific person pipes up - yes, I know. Technically they come from our heads. But how do they get into our heads in the first place? It’s a bit weird when you think about it, isn’t it? And a little bit magical, if you’re going to get romantic about it.

Inspiration for Stories

My inspiration for Dr Ribero’s Agency of the Supernatural came from all sorts of places. I suspect many other authors experience this too. Here’s just a few of the (bizarre) locations that the ideas flowed from:

  • Rhubarb wars. Yes, really. A long time ago, my husband and I discovered a hilarious story in the local news (which later hit the national headlines). I loved the strangeness of the tale – and the idea that something so flagrantly bonkers could happen in this country. Quintessential English oddness at its best!
  • Writing exercise. A few years later, I attended a fantastic writing class with a few other lovely ladies. One of the exercises was to create a character. On the spur of the moment, Dr Ribero was created. Suave, debonair, chain-smoking and Argentinian. Oh, an OAP with a sharp mind for a mystery. We were asked to take this character home and create a short story with them in it. The rhubarb wars story came back to my mind, Dr Ribero was plunked firmly in the middle of it – and thus the beginning of my book was born.
  • I couldn’t even comprehend not writing about Exeter and the surrounding Devon countryside. If you ever get the chance, take a stroll through Exeter city centre. Pause for a while on Cathedral Green and people-watch. Meander down Gandy Street; a tiny, winding, ancient street that looks as though it was pulled straight out of a Dickens novel. Get out into the woodlands, beaches and green fields that envelop the city. All these places are in Dr Ribero’s Agency of the Supernatural. They couldn’t not be, really.
  • Personal experience. It’s funny, how much of our personal lives becomes entwined in our writing, isn’t it? There’s a lot of personal stuff woven into Dr Ribero. The feeling of being a bit ‘different’. Fear of the unknown. Absent fathers. Inevitably, a little bit of ourselves gets stuffed into everything we write.

Other Sources of Inspiration

Inspiration for writing is pretty much everywhere. Through talking to lots of other fellow-writers, here’s a few other good places to find it.

  • Paintings are a darned good place to start a story. Even seemingly bland pieces of artwork often provide a great springboard to bounce into a tale. Ditto music.
  • I occasionally eavesdrop in public places. I know. It’s an appalling habit. But it’s also very useful when you’re gathering ideas for characters and situations…
  • Even everyday events can be rather inspirational, if you open your eyes and make yourself really aware of what’s going on around you. I was walking back from school the other day, and nearly slid over on a slug. The slapstick value of the moment didn’t pass me by. It’ll be going in a story one day, mark my words.

Talking to Others

Chatting to other writers is also a great way to seek out new ideas and inspiration. If you’re not already, I’d really recommend being a part of a writing group, or at least talking to fellow writers online. It’s great to exchange thoughts. Not to mention witter on about all things book-related. After all, there’s only so much your other half can take of you going on about your writing, isn’t there?