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How to write fiction | Inspiration

SANDWELL VALLEY 151

Sometimes, I’m inspired to write by places, such as this lake I photographed on Sunday. It was a typical summer’s day in the English countryside and people were having picnics at the side of the river. The stuff of great English novelists, like Jane Austen. Jane Austen captured the mood of the time she wrote in, when picnics in the countryside would have been more important than today. There were few forms of entertainment in those days and a day out would have inspired memories to be treasured. 

Jane Austen wrote about society and social issues. She wrote about social standing and economic security for women. She understood that in her time that women achieved social standing and economic security through marriage. She seems to have felt strongly about those issues and felt the need to become a professional writer. She achieved little personal fame during her lifetime, but that passion did make her a great writer. Passion can inspire writers to become at least good at what they do, if not to become great at what they do. Many writers have written their best works in a drunken rage or when they have felt particularly strongly about something. Jane Austen was from a wealthy family, but the wealth came from trade and so they became members of the lower landed gentry and so not readily accepted into higher ranking society. This obviously influenced her writing, her first novel was ‘Lady Susan’; she wrote about the lives and loves of the upper classes. There was a mass appeal though for that type of novel and the upper classes controlled the publishing industry. Her first novel ‘Sense and Sensibility’ was published because her brother knew a publisher. That sort of connection to a publisher would still be useful today. It isn’t easy to write a novel, getting one published without a connection to someone in publishing is impossible. That is the reason for so much self publishing and companies only too willing to help writers self publish for a price.

When we need inspiration, passion for something we care about can help. People also inspire us to write and be creative. Writing can be a solitary pursuit and we do need to take the time to communicate with other people and relate to them in many ways. Jane Austen was inspired by reading and most writers also read a lot for inspiration. These days we have a wide range of ‘media’ beside books and newspapers to inspire us. We should make use of them all and become familiar with the resources of the internet not only for research, but also for communicating with others. We can now chat live across oceans to people around the world. Social media means we can make friends with a wide variety of people. To some extent even social barriers have been broken down by the internet. Certainly racial barriers have been broken down. I have friends on Facebook from every continent and although many Chinese people are blocked, I still have a friend in China, several on LinkedIn and a few on MSN with whom I can chat live. All of this can be inspiring and we do constantly need to look for more inspiration and new people to inspire us.

Jane Austen was fortunate because after her first novel was published, the Prince Regent became a fan of her work and she was invited by his librarian to his library and she dedicated a novel to him; even though she didn’t like him very much. She was unfortunate with her health however and she died very young; who knows how great she would have become in her own lifetime, had she lived.

So I think we need to embrace technology; television, radio, the internet, eBooks, social media and computers, but not at the expense of tradition, inspiring books and picnics in the countryside still have their place in our lives. Above all else, people will inspire us, who else would we model our characters on, but the people we meet. They can inspire heroes and villains; calm or excitement, love or hate…

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