As it happens, it’s fairly rare that I do get stuck, thankfully, because I got into the habit of writing down story ideas as they’ve occurred to me, even when I might not use them for a long time.
Places can definitely be inspiring. Last autumn I went to the ancient Nabataean city of Petra in Jordan, somewhere I had wanted to go for a very long time, (probably since I first watched Indiana Jones!). It was an amazing trip. We travelled down from Amman on the old King’s Road along the silk route, taking in the highest point in Jordan, the city of Petra and then eventually on to the lowest point of Jordan, the Dead Sea. Unlike Indiana Jones, I had no inclination to gallop down the Siq in Petra, but wandered down it at a more leisurely pace on my own two feet.
|On Mt Nebo|
|At the Dead Sea|
|Dead Sea salt formation|
|The highest point in Jordan|
John William Burgon’s 1845 poem Petra was inspired solely by a description of Petra. He had never seen the city.
It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.
But equally an idea for a book can be triggered somewhere far more mundane – when I’m working on my allotment, or gazing out of my kitchen window at the view of the woods.
A personal experience or an event, a photograph, a picture, a piece of music, a name, the list is endless, and the story ideas can be too.
The question of what inspired a particular book is far easier to answer. The inspiration for The Long Weekend came from a flyer that went round local schools warning parents that a big flash car had been seen outside schools and had tried to snatch children at pick up time.
And, as with John William Burgon, you don’t have to see something with your own eyes for it to inspire you to write.