Friday, April 20, 2012

Inspiration is Where You Find It


Does any writer like the "where do you get your ideas?" question? I don't. Luckily, I don't get asked that very often but lately I have discovered a terrific source of inspiration and I thought it would be of interest to you, my fellow writers, and maybe it will provide a compact answer when some knucklehead brings up your ideas over cocktails.

When you write thrillers (as I do), it is important to have either experienced thrilling things, know of thrilling things, or to be able to make things that are not thrilling into things that are. A scan of the daily news can, usually, produce material for at least one decent thriller depending on your imagination (Michael Newton made the same point in How to Write Action Adventure Novels). One thing that helps one's skill in using the day's events for story fodder is learning how other writers do it, and the best source of this sort--for me--is a coffee table book called JAMES BOND: THE LEGACY by John Cork and Bruce Scivally. This huge tome covers the entire history of the first 20 James Bond movies and even gives a few pages worth of mention to a chap named Ian Fleming who wrote the original novels (which are better than the movies, but that's another article for another forum).

Throughout the book, you read not only how the movies were made and the behind-the-scenes machinations that took place, but you get an insight into what was happening in the world at the time, politically, socially, etc., and how some of those events made it into the writer's room and eventually into the Bond movie scripts and how those events were molded and shaped to fit the final version of the films. It has made me reconsider how I look at current and historical events and how I might use those to my own advantage.

Some examples: Dr. No, about a madman's plan to alter the course of U.S. rocket launches, used the Cuban Missile Crisis as a springboard. You Only Live Twice used the space race as a backdrop. Goldfinger took advantage of developing technology (the infamous laser cutter being a prime example and Bond's DB5 another). The energy crisis of the 1970s played a heavy role in The Man with the Golden Gun. Diplomatic efforts to maintain the balance of world power between the U.S. and Soviet Union in the '80s influenced For Your Eyes Only. Nuclear expansion, disarmament, and fears of Soviet aggression in Europe fueled the story behind Octopussy.  Of course, nothing overtly political ever made it into the movies which is a skill in and of itself. All we saw was an exciting story taking place in exotic locations, fantastic and silly in some cases, but anchored somewhere north of reality.


I am currently writing a series called The Rogue Gentleman, about a globe-trotting adventurer named Steve Dane who rights wrongs wherever he finds them, and to say he wasn't partially inspired by Bond would be a lie. Steve Dane is very much inspired by our British friend, and by other literary heroes such as Simon Templar. I have quite a career planned for Mr. Dane and seeing how the Bond writers worked has opened the door to ideas I had not previously thought would work, and highlighted events that I either did not know of at the time or was too young (or not alive!) to remember. With a few changes here and there I can not only mine the past but the present as well and turn out stories that will be worth reading for years to come. Perhaps a melding of the two will give me a glimpse into the future and I can use those ideas to produce some real surprises.

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