Finding inspiration: Study reference books and great fiction to pump up your writing

This is a post by Marie Borthwick

Welcome to a week-long theme week on the Novel Publicity blog during which we’ll cover a series of four posts about finding inspiration. Today, we’re going to talk about finding inspiration in books other than your own.

Books should be an obvious source of inspiration, but like using people it often comes with inherent dangers. Remember, writing is a lot like life: you should always err on the side of caution to avoid sticky messes that are no fun to clean up.

If you use fiction novels (published or unpublished) for inspiration, tread carefully; while there are some things that can be “borrowed” (some themes, types of characters, scenes, etc.), others should not (carbon copies of characters, scenes unique to a given story and/or author, names unique to a given story and/or author.)

Reference books are awesome! I’m not talking about those encyclopedias that are gathering dust on your grandma’s shelf; I’m talking about genre-specific reference books.

  • The Element Encyclopedia of … is a series of books that are organized in a concise way and are easy to read. Best of all, they will also lead you to other books that may be helpful on a given subject/topic/etc. that they discuss. There are a total of 10, or 12 if you count 2 earlier editions of 2 of the books. You can start your search for these books with a simple Google search for “the element encyclopedia of.” They include volumes on witchcraft, spells (has 2 editions), signs/symbols, psychic world, vampires, dreams (has 2 editions), ghosts/hauntings, birthdays, magical creatures and secret societies.

Note: some of these are hard to find, but not impossible. Just keep an eye out at Barnes&Noble discount racks, eBay, half price books, thrift stores, etc. and you will be able to piece together the collection with a little bit of work.

  • The Dictionary of Mythology is another resource that covers many aspects of mythology as it plays out in several different parts of the world and among countless cultures.
  • Write Great Fiction: Character, Emotion & Viewpoint. I have this book as well as the other four in the series. It is chock full of goodies when it comes to developing characters. It walks you through theories/information at a comfortable and detailed pace, and then you complete exercises based on that information. What is great about this book and the others is that if you start with chapter 1 (exercise one) and go all the way to the end, you are likely to have a completed character, if not one well on its way!
  • Magazines and newspapers may not be books, but they are often crammed with inspirational tidbits. I often cut out articles or pictures and create collages that I feel I may be able to use in creating my character. If you do this, please be sure it’s a magazine/newspaper you can cut up! Don’t go taking something from the doctor’s office or cut up what you check out from the library.

When it comes to books, I prefer hardbound books (paper or hardcover) that I can stuff on to a shelf; I love to be able to turn the page and call me a nerd but I just love the smell of a new (or well kept) book. That’s not to say I don’t see the advantages of reference books in “eBook” form; I myself own a Kindle Fire and love the ease of carrying an unlimited number of books with me – it’s perfect when your traveling and can’t lug all those thick and heavy books with you.

If you have yet to find that book that inspires you to push forward with your own work, just keep looking. You’re a writer, a creative person remember? Don’t let anyone else tell you differently!

marieprofileMarie has depended on books all her life – for entertainment, for emotional support, and for escape. She enjoys writing on her blog, Write Panic Live, where she shares the high, lows and in-betweens of living with mental illness, her path to becoming a published writer, and all the books she reads along the way. In addition to working on her current WIP, “Route 6”, she has started developing a business to share her love of crafted items, a charity she hopes will spread the hobby of knitting/crocheting to those in need, and has begun taking on developing two series of children’s books to promote social awareness.


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