Latest News

Guest Post by Cory Archie: The Hated Question

Today, a guest post from teen writer, Cory Archie. Cory is a full time contributor to The Book Lantern and a senior in high school. She hates writing in third person and she goes by the pseudonym, thebloodfiend. When she isn't writing, you can find her procrastinating on GoodReads or wasting time on the internet looking at lolcats.

The Hated Question:
Where Do You Get Your Inspiration?
by Cory Archie

Here's one question all authors hate being asked: Where do you get your inspiration?

I've looked around on a lot of author's websites for the answer. Some give vague statements that don't really answer the question. Others refuse to answer it period. If you're like me, at one point in time, you interviewed all of your favorite authors for a school project. Then, if you were lucky, they emailed you back. But how many gave you a straight answer when you asked the hated question?

I'm going to take a wild guess and say none.

Asking an author where they get their inspiration is like asking them when they're going to finish their next novel. For a lot of them, that question is impossible to answer. Don't believe me? Here's what Maureen Johnson says on the topic:

Almost every writer I know hates this question. We are, by nature, a lazy people. Hard questions disturb our state of mind. This is one of the hardest of the hard, topped only by things like “How do you write a book?” and “Why are there so many headless girls on the covers of your novels?"

And here's what John Green says:

Well, my books don’t have capital-i Ideas, really. I don’t have ideas that hit like a ton of bricks out of nowhere, like BAM! Write a book about a wizard school! Or, Bam! Vampires in Suburbia! The ideas for my books come from lower case-i ideas. Looking for Alaska began, really, in thinking about whether this was meaning to suffering, and how one can reconcile one’s self to a world where suffering is so unjustly distributed. Paper Towns began with thinking about our fascination with manic pixie dream girls and our relentless misimagining of each other. Then little ideas will come along and link up to other little ideas and then in a few short years, I have a book. I would love to have a high-concept book idea fall out of the sky and hit me one day, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Nothing is guaranteed to give you inspiration. Not even a fun website with plenty of demotivational posters. Believe me, if such a thing existed, I'd be the first to use it. It should be obvious why there are so many websites devoted to finding inspiration; there's no single holy source that bestows it upon desperate writers.

It isn't as simple as saying: Henry Thoreau was inspired by nature and Emily Dickinson was inspired by death. There's more to it than that.

Inspiration is something unexpected. It hits you when you least expect it. Granted, some things are more inspirational than others. I've watched many inspirational movies; none of them inspired me. But low and behold, while watching a pseudo-indie movie, I was inspired to write a story filled with quirky characters that had no real personalities. Note: not all inspiration is good.

I know what you're thinking. When am I going to get to the point?

Because I promised you an answer, I'm going to tell you one way I get inspiration. It might not work for you, but I never promised it would.

Besides listening to angst emo music and indie hipster soundtracks, one way I get inspiration is by reading books I don't like. That makes no sense, so let me explain.

How many times have you come across a book with atrocious editing? As a dedicated Grammar Nazi, it is my duty to mentally correct every single line of prose until it makes sense. Obsessive? Yes. But is it worth it? Certainly.

Remember in elementary school when you had to correct sentences in order to make yourself a better writer? It must have worked, otherwise you wouldn't be on a website dedicated to writing and the publishing industry.

Getting inspiration from your least favorite books isn't hard either.

That werewolf/vampire/alien love-triangle you thought lacked chemistry? You can write it better.

This isn't fan-fiction, this is an inspirational creative process. How do you think authors become better writers? They learn from each other's mistakes. If that's not inspirational, I don't know what is.

How do you get your inspiration?

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


  1. Cool! That's one way I get inspiration as well. I read a bad book and want to write something better. Or I just get it from great authors that I believe deserve to be where they are and have excellent stories. Basically I get my inspiration from other authors, rather their story is good or bad. Prime example, J.K Rowling. I'm only on the second book and wish I could meet and thank her for making such a wonderful world!

    Another? Stephanie Meyer. I'm not going to knock her vampire series. I'm actually indifferent about them. I just want to learn from the mistakes she's made in her series and remind myself NOT to do them, you know? Lol well that's about it. Great post! :D

    *~` `~*

  2. Creative inspiration? For me it comes from real-life stories I hear, the news, old storylines from classic literature.

    What inspires me to get moving and write? Ironically, I just posted a comic strip about that a couple of days ago!

  3. I've always heard the saying "Write the story you want to read", and for me, this holds really true. When I read a book and find something I don't like (i.e., the flatness of Bella's character in TWILIGHT), I make a deliberate attempt to NOT imitate the same thing in my writing. You're absolutely right; sometimes, books and things we don't like are awesome inspiration.

    I also thought I should mention that I get a lot of GOOD inspiration from books I love, too. :)

  4. I've done a few posts on my blog about inspiration and listed the ways I get it, usually through good music and amazing photography. But it's hard to explain how an idea will just appear in your head like it came out of nowhere. It's a big 'ol jumble of things that come together at the right moment...

    Anyone who's published is inspiring to me - they've done what I'm hoping to do! :D

    Great post!

  5. Music. Friends. Getting pissed off at work. Overhead conversations. Good books. Hearing authors speak of their writing journeys.

  6. Also, very random things. For example, I was proofreading a page with line trimmers on it and got an idea. I keep a notebook with me at all times because I just never know.

    Also, magazines. And catalogs with pretty clothes and shoes. Sometimes, research will inspire me. :)

    And reading awesome blogs like this one.

  7. Great post! I can't really explain where I get ideas for my stories either, but for some reason most of them come when I'm driving on the interstate and I don't have pen and paper handy. Or when I'm in the shower. My ideas like to come inconveniently.

    As to what sparks those ideas...well, I don't really know. I think it might just be a certain set of circumstances that fall together and suddenly my brain pulls them together into something resembling an idea.

  8. Invisible space-mermaids give me my inspiration.

    That's what I tell people who ask, anyway ;)

  9. Top post and so true!

    As for me:

    Music has helped me in the past.

    But sometimes it's been as simple as hearing or seeing something that makes me stop and asking, 'what if?' Then just working from there with 'and then what?' until I've got something I can use (or even combining two separate ideas together to make something new).

  10. Inspiration is a tricky thing. I guess the best inspiration I get is just from living. I write about my latest obsessions, sometimes. Other times it just smashes you in the face, as with my first book. You just have to live and feed your crazy ideas.


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: Guest Post by Cory Archie: The Hated Question Rating: 5 Reviewed By: YA Highway