We all need some inspiration from time to time. Whether it’s hanging out on public transport and listening in to conversations, or taking inspiration from your own life; writing doesn’t just happen, there needs to be an impetus of some kind behind it.
I am not one for writing prompts. Not usually. They don’t tend to help me all that much. Instead, I find that non-fiction is a much more helpful tool. Hearing, or reading real stories doesn’t just help to form ideas about plot and content (hey, wouldn’t it be cool if I wrote something about this?), but can also help you understand motivations behind people’s actions. Writers have not experienced everything themselves. Hearing someone talk about an experience they went through can articulate thoughts you didn’t know you needed to, and help to create more realistic characters.
So then, what do I do? I listen to podcasts. A lot of podcasts.
I thought I’d recommend five of them to you:
99% Invisible describes itself as “a tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.” Of course, it is anything but tiny. 150-odd episodes in, the podcast has covered everything from the history of mascots, to a story about the carpet in Portland’s airport.
If you want a truly interesting story, then check out their Game Over episode, about the final moments of an online videogame before it was deleted by the server.
Serial was the true crime podcast that took the world by storm, but Criminal is far and away the better one. Covering a different story each month, Criminal aims to tell stories about, “people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” They tell stories set in different time periods (this month’s was about an 11 year old boy who murdered his parents in 1889, a few months ago it was a story of a wrongly accused man in 2014). Their stories cover victims, criminals and sometimes investigators.
The best episode so far has to be, The Fifth Suspect, the story of a man, wrongly accused of a truly horrific crime.
Monstertalk bills itself as a show that “critically examines the science behind cryptozoological (and legendary) creatures, such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or werewolves.” They look at the history and genesis behind monsters, the mythology that informs them and what it says about us. If you’re looking to write horror, and you don’t want to keep on with the tropes of the genre, then you’ll be able to find episodes here that look at things very, very differently.
Best one? Slenderman. The analysis of this internet created monster is absolutely fascinating.
The Memory Palace
Short episodes of podcasts can be frustrating, especially when you listen to shows that don’t come out regularly. The Memory Palace has short episodes, sometimes less than 10 minutes long. It also doesn’t come out regularly. Sometimes taking months off inbetween stories. But when those stories come out, they are completely worth it. Passionate and emotionally involving, even though some of these are just five minutes in length, they will not leave you for ages.
I’m Still Alive is the best starting point. Give that a listen, and I guarantee you, it will haunt you.
Presented by the former director of The Moth, Strangers is a beautifully created series of shows “featuring true stories about people we meet, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that WE aren’t even who we thought we were…”
Their Halloween episode is a great, and very odd introduction to the series. Screaming with Professionals.
So, what do you listen to for inspiration? What can help to prompt you to writing something new? Let me know in the comments.