Hey, folks! Hope all is well with you! Today I’m putting out a multi-purpose post. I’m hoping to give you some motivation, share some of what’s inspired me (and the fruits of said inspiration), and maybe even start a tradition. We’ll see how it goes!
Where It comes from
That’s capital “I” inspiration we’re talking about. I have a few ideas of my own, but I hope that you’ll also share some of your inspirations in the comments below. Lets start by getting the obvious out of the way: media. A lot of great inspiration comes from things that were designed to inspire, which we often see in the huge variety of media that we enjoy these days.
Things that are meant to capture the imagination like books, movies, and TV can be fantastic inspiration, even if only for letting us see what’s possible. Artwork is probably second only to literature and films in inspiring the things I write. Artists have a way of bringing to life the things we see in our imaginations, those often vague, semi-formed ideas that we just know are amazing, but can’t quite control. Even music, which often goes hand in hand with film and TV, can inspire new worlds and characters, which leads me to my next point.
What it does
A large part of my early writing life was spent in play-by-post forum roleplaying. One of the funnest things about it was creating new characters to interact with the menagerie of other characters created by other writers. I loved exploring new quirks and histories with each new character. Sometimes they were inspired by my own experiences, or metaphysical ideas, and sometimes they were simple products of the rule of cool. One day, I challenged myself to create a character based on a song, and hit shuffle on my playlist.
The song that played was a melodic dubstep track with very few words to string meaning between. Undeterred, I tried to see the song as a world viewed through the character’s eyes, and a concept quickly formed. The resulting character was a combination of classic and original fantasy elements, but with little story of his own. Each time I thought of the song, the story became a little clearer. Soon it had fleshed out this character completely, and through him, the world he inhabited. He will eventually have a role in a novel project, if not a book of his own.
I had so much fun creating that character that I now listen for stories in all my music, and look for ways to learn something new and different from them. For now, though, I’ll share some of what came as a result of that short exercise:
Excerpt from “Chinter’s Will”, inspired by “Chinter’s Will“, by Klaypex
Each labored breath was accompanied by a pale cloud of frost, as two men wrapped in warm winter furs and leathers pulled themselves to the flat peak of the mountain, leaning on weathered staffs for support. Of the man in the lead, only a pink nose and beady black eyes were visible between his closely wrapped hood and the black beard spilling out of his furs. He immediately cast his gaze about, a wildness in his eyes as he found sure footing and relaxed his grip on the walking staff.
He appeared to be immune to the stunning vista before them: a mountain valley, filled now with white, save for the green ribbons of evergreens winding their way up and down the hills and cliffs. Now and again, the heavy snow would slip from a tree and cause a rolling cloud of it to race down the mountainside. It was truly a spectacular view. But it seemed to be lost on not only the first, but the second man as well.
His lowered hood revealed stringy, dirty blonde hair, slick with sweat from the effort of the climb. His ears and nose were also pink, burned by the cold. Pausing only a moment to take a much needed breath, he too turned his attention to the peak around them. Specifically the ground.
“I don’t see anything, Sigmund! This can’t be right!” the first man exclaimed, beginning to pace around, kicking and sifting through the snow in his distress. “This can’t be right,” he said again, at last falling to his knees and pushing the snow aside with his mitten covered hands, the wooden spade hanging from his pack completely forgotten.
The second man did not seem so feverish as he strode to and fro across the peak, but when Sigmund spoke he was comforting himself as much as his colleague.
“Do not despair, keep looking! It is here, we have assurances that it is here!”
“The Academy will never fund another expedition, you know this,” said the first man, turning to look at his companion from his position on the ground, “We’ll never get another chance at—”
“I know, Alexi!” Sigmund shouted. He had at least had the presence of mind to remove his spade and use it to push aside the snow, trying to expose the frozen ground. “Just keep looking!” and then, more quietly, almost to himself, “We’ll find it.”
Sigmund’s sobering yell seemed to bring Alexi to his senses, and he got off his hands, sitting up to remove his pack and going to work with his spade. The two men worked for what must have been hours, peeling back the fresh snow, and then the porous ice underneath, exposing brown earth and pale stone. At first, they paced themselves, systematically clearing square meter by square meter, but never satisfied with what they found.
As the day wore on, the feverishness began to return. Alexi began reciting some sort of mantra, quietly at first, but he got louder as the minutes passed. Though Sigmund couldn’t clearly hear him, he could guess what he said, and could pick out enough to be sure. “No hut, no chest.”
At last, the strain began to be too much for poor Alexi and he again cast away his wooden spade, slapping frantically at the snow and sobbing loudly. When Sigmund could stand no more, he rose and turned, shouting, “Enough Alexi!”
When Alexi did not stop, his taller companion strode toward him, apparently ready to strike him with his tool, “Alexi! I said, that’s eno—” Sigmund stopped and stared down at the earth. His friend was still pawing lamely at the ground, sobbing quietly now and rocking slightly. He slowly lowered himself down beside his friend, an arm falling around his shoulders.
Barely visible against the brown earth were the rotting splinters of a pair of wooden planks. Between broken sobs, Alexi managed to whisper, “The hut . . . it’s here.”
The two men in the camp on the peak seemed to be almost completely different men from the two that had arrived at the mountain top that morning. Seated comfortably beside a roaring fire as night fell around them, the two were smiling, joking, and laughing.
“So then Anders turns to me and says, just loud enough so Garmichel can hear, ‘He might find it indexed under “B,” I heard they retitled it “The Buffoon’s Compendium of Magical Mistakes!”’” Alexi finished, chuckling while Sigmund shook with silent laughter. Wiping tears from the corners of his eyes he managed to speak.
“So did it turn up?”
“That’s the best part! The day before Anders had actually had the scribes rebind it with a cover saying just that! Garmichel searched for a week before he went to “B” in exasperation. There it was, the whole time. He was furious!” Sigmund dissolved into roaring laughter for several moments, joined by his friend.
Alexi sighed, then raised his cup, “To discovery.”
Sigmund responded in kind, “To perseverance.”
There was the clinking of tin cups as they drank to their success. At last Sigmund stood, his tall form made giant by the shadows the fire cast. Slapping his colleague firmly on the shoulder, he disappeared into his tent and had soon snuffed out the light.
At length, Alexi reached into his pack and withdrew a leather bound tome. Strapped to the cover was a smaller volume, a journal held closed with a leather thong. This he removed and unbound. A couple of loose pages slipped out, falling to the earth beside the fire. Alexi’s eyes flashed with fear and he darted to save them. He held the pages close, breathing a sigh of relief, and then chuckling quietly; he didn’t need them now.
He lovingly unfolded the pages. A couple of them were charts, maps with trails and topographies, crisscrossed and dotted with personal notes, most of which were to the effect of “Dead End” or “Trail Goes Cold Here.” With his finger, Alexi traced a line that appeared to be begin in a province many miles away with the words “Last Hope.” It crossed a river, and cut through a forest, and at last entered the valley below before climbing to the very peak on which they now rested.
Slipping the charts into the pages of the journal, Alexi pulled out an ink pot and quill and opened the journal to the last entry. Dipping quill in ink, he began to write,
For years I have endured the scoffs and mocking of the so-called scholars at the Academy, but at last, no more. With Sigmund at my side to document and testify to this momentous occasion, we have found it at last. The peak, as described by the locals, where resided the fiend Chinter. The peak where, it is said, are buried the secrets of his power. This will be the most historic moment since the flight of the first airship, and will secure my place in the annals of history. They’ll never forget Alexi Reikoff!
Finishing the entry with a flourish of the quill, Alexi stashed in his pack and slipped into his tent. The light went out and soon the only sounds on the frigid mountain top were the competing snores of Alexi and Sigmund.
The morning dawned bright and clear for the first time in almost a week. A single cloud blocked the sun for the first hour or so after it rose, during which time the two men broke camp and found a place to leave their things while they began their work. As the sun penetrated the cloud cover and shed light on them, they expanded the area Alexi had uncovered the day before until they found the telltale outline traced by the walls of the old hut. This they cleared of snow completely, as well as a good two or three meters around it in every direction.
“Thank you, Sigmund,” Alexi said quietly. They had been clearing the ground for the better part of three hours, and in silence the whole time. “Thank you for believing in this.”
“There’s no need, Alexi,” Sigmund raised a hand to silence him.
“There is! I know it was the Academy’s offer that changed your mind, but it would have been one of them, not me, up here if they actually thought for a second that we would find anything. You believed in it. Thank you.”
Sigmund only grunted in response and the work went on in silence. When they finally finished they got to their feet and examined what they’d uncovered. Without the snow, it was clear that the spot had been inhabited. The earth was perfectly level and a few stones had been laid flat at intervals for a firmer floor. There was a space in the eastern wall that had probably held the door. Alexi took a few moments to sketch out the area both in his journal and on the map that had led them here. Then they turned to the task of breaking through the frozen earth.
“Should we start with the stones, then?”
“No,” Alexi answered, “leave them for now. If he’d had a stone floor, that would be an apt hiding place, but with an earthen floor, these random stones would be the first place anyone would look.
“In fact,” Alexi paused and leafed through the parchment in his journal again, at last withdrawing a scrap hardly a quarter of a page in size. He studied it hard for a few moments, and began nodding slowly, “Yes, yes look here. He specifically mentions ’without the walls,’ and look here,” he held the scrap out for Sigmund to see, “he says something about the corner.”
“Well, that seems pretty clear then. We just excavate the corner, no?”
Each of them took a corner, beginning with the two at the front of the hut’s remains. After digging out holes a full arm’s breadth across and deep and finding nothing, they moved to the back corners. Again, though they dug deeply, nothing turned up. Worry crept into Alexi’s voice again.
“This is, hmm . . . this is troubling. That’s all the page gives us to go on.”
Sigmund resisted the urge to suggest that perhaps someone had come before them, but Alexi caught his eye and seemed to read his mind, shaking his head resolutely.
“No. No, no. Absolutely not. No one would come here without knowing,” Alexi abandoned his earlier logic and began prying up the stones inside the hut’s walls. Sigmund, not wanting to stress him further, began digging beneath them, listening as his colleague carried on, “They would have sold it, made a fortune—we would know!”
When there was nothing immediately visible beneath the stones, Alexi backed away from the site, still shaking his head.
“Alexi, you are not a field man—“
“I know that Sigmund! You think I don’t know that? I’d have died on this trek without your help!”
“Alexi, listen! What I’m saying is you want to give in too easily! Imagine if you had given up finding this place at first dead end in your research! Field work is just like those tomes of yours, it’s not always as simple as it looks!”
Alexi stared hard at his friend, who eventually waved a dismissive hand and kept digging. Alexi withdrew the tattered scrap from where he’d deposited it in his pocket, eyes racing as he read and reread the smudged and blotted script. His eyes returned to the plot of earth they had uncovered. His gaze spread to the rest of the peak. The walls of the hut would have been just about aligned with the drop off on each side.
“The corners,” he mumbled slowly to himself, “Not…of the hut,” Straightening up, Alexi made his way dazedly towards the nearest edge. He was very close before Sigmund noticed.
“What are you doing? This plateau isn’t exactly stable—Alexi!”
The bearded man had dropped to his knees at the corner of the cliff and driven his spade into the earth with all his might. The ground gave way, a boulder beneath the earth loosening and rolling out from beneath the poor man, and carrying him out of sight with hardly a sound.
“Alexi!” Sigmund bellowed as he threw himself down belly first by the newly-turned earth to find any sign of his friend.
He was there, one hand clinging to a root growing deep in the ground, between the rocks. He took little notice of his friend calling for him to grab his hand. Indeed, he hardly seemed to be concerned with his dire situation. Instead he was focused on something just a few feet from the root he was clutching, reaching for it with his free hand.
“Damn you, Alexi! Grab hold!” Sigmund had extended his spade as far as he could, just waiting for his companion to catch hold of it. He soon spotted what had Alexi’s attention, “Leave it, man! Let me pull you up! Let us dig it out from safety!” This thought seemed to filter through Alexi’s stupor and he looked up at the spade, easily within reach. After a moment’s more hesitation he grabbed it, and finding some footing, let Sigmund pull him to safety.
Neither of them paused for breath, but they immediately turned and dug into the ground with renewed intensity. A number of large rocks had to be pried out of the way first until they were deep enough. Beneath a sort of natural rock shelf was the roughly hewn stone box probably just small enough in size that it would fit in one of their packs.
Alexi had exposed the corner during his fall. Pulling it gingerly up onto the ground beside them, the two men exchanged a quick glance before turning to the task of opening the stone chest. The hinges were cut from the same stone, but other than that, no other feature held the lid down. Alexi lifted it and it moved freely, if gratingly. He paused and took a deep breath before opening it completely. Inside was a roll of oilskins bound with leather straps. As he carefully lifted it out, Sigmund broke the silence,
“Let us bring it to the campsite.”
Alexi held the skins in trembling hands for a while longer before answering.
“Yes . . . yes.” He lowered the wrappings back into the chest, attempting to follow them with wide, watery eyes until he’d closed it and together they carried it back and set it beside the ashes of their campfire. There Alexi again retrieved his journal and hastily sketched the chest and its contents before allowing Sigmund to open it again. Alexi unwrapped the leather straps and unrolled the skins. Unfolding them he revealed a stack of loose parchment. He tugged off his gloves and ran his fingers lightly over the pages, eliciting a quiet caution from Sigmund.
“Careful. Is it . . . have we found it?”
Alexi leaned in and began to examine the flowing script, eyes darting back and forth. He slowly opened his mouth and at last spoke.
“I . . . Excellent! Our priority must be to preserve it,” Sigmund started excitedly, “Quickly, bring it inside the tent.”
They both crammed into Alexi’s tent, and he lit a lantern between them. He handed his journal to Sigmund, and while his companion found a comfortable position to write in, Alexi removed the collection of parchment completely from the wrappings.
“Is it legible?” Sigmund asked.
“Hm, yes, fairly legible. We can begin transcribing it immediately.” Sigmund dipped his quill in the ink, and let the tip hover over the clean journal page.
Alexi cleared his throat, and began to read.
“If this has come to light, then my time has finally come. It has been a long time coming, indeed . . .”
Well, I hope you all enjoyed that! I’m not going to have a “formal” writing prompt, at least not yet, but I’d encourage you writers out there to give it a try. Find a song you like and turn it into a story you like even more! Also feel free to share some thoughts on what has inspired your writing, whether it’s an idea, or the very source!