Often when on a school visit I’ll talk to the children about where they get their ideas and inspirations from for their stories; and I'll tell them where the inspiration has come from for my books.
Their suggestions usually include getting ideas from watching television, or from books and newspapers, or from places they visit and so on. Generally someone will come up with the suggestion of getting ideas from dreams – and if they don’t - I’ll remind them that dreams – and nightmares are often a great source of inspiration.
Usually at the mention of nightmares they shy away and pull faces, until I tell them about the nightmare I had. It was a few years ago now, but that doesn’t matter, I tell them of how I’d dreamed of a horribly monstrous grave digger – and I'll do a swift impression so they get the picture! I tell them how I woke up in a cold sweat but instead of letting the bad dream worry or frighten me, I made good use of it - I scribbled it down on a scrap of paper by my bed.
A few weeks later I spotted a writing competition for a short horror story. I looked back over my notes written in the dark in the dead of night, and wrote them up as a scary story which went on to take first prize – and £200.
Every pair of eyes in the classroom always light up at this and I can almost imagine them begging their parents to let them have a nice chunk of cheese at supper-time in the hope they’ll have a nightmare!
It's all good fun yet true. I don’t know about other writers, but most of my stories and books – or scenes in books or characters have been sparked by something specific and it’s usually the oddest little thing.
A stained glass window inches deep in cobwebs that I’d spotted on holiday in North Devon found its way into Disaster Bay; the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons provided one of my favourite scenes in Cry Danger; an abandoned canal boat formed the basis for Fishing for Clues and a skull I spotted in a little Scottish museum was the trigger for my Beast trilogy.
|A prehistoric skull inspired my Beast books.|
But probably the oddest object that sparked the idea for a little horror story I called Bad Dreams came from a drinks can. I was driving at night with my grandson, Jake. He'd finished his can of pop, crushed the can slightly then placed it on the dashboard. As I was driving, certain street lights brought its reflection up in my line of vision. The dents he’d made somehow transformed the image I was seeing from a tin can to a face - a macabre bodiless face that was white and haunting... A storyline was already forming in my head by the time we’d got home.
We get our ideas and inspirations from all over the place. But what, I wonder - has been the oddest object/place/thing that has inspired you so far?