A plant in DC's Botanical Garden. Nature is full of inspiration! Photo by Kate Ota 2017
Some people wait for the muse to strike them. I say, go out and find the muse yourself. She might be lost because muses don’t know how to use Google Maps. But really, how do you go about finding inspiration? Seems rather personal, but I have a few major places I turn to first.
The Animal Kingdom
Whether I’m trying to dream up a magical or super power or an unusual government system, I love turning to animals for inspiration. Did you know naked mole rats run their colonies like a beehive? The one queen rat gets to mate and most of the others are workers. Did you know female hyenas have genitalia that appears to be male? And they give birth through that. No wonder hyenas run their packs with the females totally dominant, then the babies, then the males. You can google strange animal facts and get a flood of fun ideas.
New Science Papers
If you look up the latest scientific breakthroughs, there are some strange experiments being done. And they often discuss what the scientists want to do next. Have you seen the video of rats taught to drive tiny cars? Adorable. Pick any category of science and you’ll be amazed with the exciting results being published. While most of this would easily apply to a scifi and even fantasy work, don’t shy away if that’s not your genre. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, archaeology news is for you. Romance? Try psychology, they always publish relationship stuff. Horror? Well, just imagine the science going wrong. (The rats in cars will come for us all!)
Laws and Warnings
If you see a warning on the side of fish food, for example, and it says not for human consumption, you immediately wonder who tried to eat it and why. There are all sorts of silly warnings that seem obvious on products throughout your home and each one could be a story. Not to mention the odd laws, some centuries old, at the city, county, state, and national level. You can Google strange laws and get lots of hits. Take it beyond the level of who caused this to be a rule, and think of the future—what will happen when the next person breaks this law? Or build a whole fantasy society around one very odd law, which has a significant purpose. Even defunct laws could be exciting to focus on, whether in historical fiction or if the law was brought back to life. Let your mind go wild.
I love watching Extra History on YouTube, and I’ve also gotten into Weird History and Drunk History. Some are deep character studies, some are events based. But they all reveal the more complex situations that have unfolded in the past, and could be used for plots in books. Plus that gives you an easy pitch: This story is if Cleopatra’s usurping sister was taking over a space ship instead of ancient Egypt. Ta da! There are so many cool events and historical figures you can use to inspire stories of any genre. Go forth and fall into a YouTube hole, you can always claim it was research.
Did any of these methods help you? Have any other tips for finding your muse? Let’s discuss in the comments!