Entheos: The key to inspiration

Are you ready to receive inspiration?

Inspiration may be the name of the game, but first may I give many apologies for the recent dearth of content on my blog. This is down to a number of things; writing guest blogs, a hectic schedule from Harper Collins for my non-fiction work and a constant battle with illness. But hey, I’ve surfaced and present to you not one, but two real treats.

If you can’t wait to see what they are then click here to claim your free bonus content.

Some updates:

My novel, The Psychonaut has had a rest for a month and I’m now fully into the editing process. This is turning out to be a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Tightening the writing, closing plot loopholes and adding those Je-ne-sais-quoi features (Celestia would be proud)  that submerge the reader in the scenes I’ve created. I’m indebted to the critiquers on Scribophile and my beta-readers in this respect.

I’ve been experimenting with front covers, having decided that Stew Simpson’s ‘third eye’ artwork deserves a page of its own inside the book, where it can breathe without the clutter of titles and blurb. Below is a rough mock-up – what do you think?

Psychonaut inspiration

Once I’ve gained a bit more feedback I’ll download the full HD images from those good people at Shutterstock.

The blurb is a work in progress, in fact it’s been harder than writing the book! Anyway, here’s what it looks like after about five edits:

How would it change your life if you knew what everyone else was thinking? 

Merrick Whyte has used such a talent to profit from the world of high finance and business mergers. He puts it down to psychology, the study of body language and good background research. 

But the game is about to change. Someone is seeking his skills for a different purpose – one that leads him into the clandestine world of the occult. 

After falling foul of the law, he learns that discerning between friend and foe is not an easy task, especially when reality gets turned upside down. As he discovers the true extent of his talents, he struggles to keep his enigmatic girlfriend, Lotus from being sucked into a conflict that spreads to Eastern Asia. 

In an apocalyptic convergence of events, only Merrick and his Outcasts stand between a powerful enemy and the ultimate prize – dominion of this world and the realms beyond the Gateways.

I promised that I’d introduce a few more characters over the weeks, so I’m now going to shine the spotlight on Arun Sihanouk:

Arun inspiration

Arun is Master of the Vietnamese martial art – Vovinam. He becomes a close ally of the protagonist, Merrick Whyte and, as a member of the Outcasts, brings not only his combat skills into the fray, but his considerable mentalist skills too. Unfortunately, he has a vice that blunts his edge all too often – he’s an incurable alcoholic. It doesn’t matter what type, but his favourite is Vietnamese snake wine. Well, they say if you can’t be a good role model, then be a really bad warning!

I’ve also outlined a novella and written two of its chapters. It’s a horror/ sci-fi tale called ‘Coffin Dodgers’ – more about that next week.

Finally, I’m hard at work on a new short story – The Nursery. A place where nothing will qualify or prepare you for the children under your charge. Nuff said.

Your free bonus content:

I was thinking the other day about what I could do to really benefit my subscribers. Then it occurred to me that many of you are writers at differing points in your journey. Many blogs have posts giving writing advice or up to date insights into the publishing world. I don’t really feel qualified to hand out nuggets of wisdom in this area, but what I do have is an archive of all the free inspirational material I’ve gleaned from the interweb over the last year.

So, just for you, my connoisseurs of chaos, I’ve put all of this material in Word format at this location: Dropbox – Tom’s archive

There’s some general craft essays about writing stories, but a lot is geared the dark side or noir fiction. I can particularly recommend the essays by Chuck Palahniuk and Craig Clevenger which I downloaded from the site Litreactor. This is their free content. If you want to read more of this revolutionary stuff then you can unlock a whole course of it by subscribing to the site:

Litreactor

Another standout is Jim Shooter’s content on outlining and plotting. I used his guidance to structure ‘Psychonaut.’

It’s taken a few hours to format, edit and upload it but it’s been well worth the effort.
But what about you folks out there that enjoy reading, but haven’t yet pushed the boat out creatively? Maybe you’re just looking for the time to be carved out. It could be that you’re trapped in a quandary about where to get the inspiration or ideas. Well, I have something for you too. Read on:

The Greek word for inspiration is Entheos. It’s a concept that intrigued me so much I wrote a piece of music about it, which you can listen to on my band’s page – Hot Flow Anomaly
This may sound big-headed, but I’m never stuck for ideas. My problem is having too many to build a story round. But, hey, it’s a nice problem to have. Some people suffer from writers block and wonder when or from where the muse will visit them. Inspiration is a slippery little fish; hard to define and difficult to cultivate. Better minds than mine have spoken at length on this. Here’s what Nabokov had to say on the subject (in his typically verbose style):

(Inspiration is) a prefatory glow, not unlike some benign variety of the aura before an epileptic attack, is something the artist learns to perceive very early in life. This feeling of tickly well-being branches through him like the red and the blue in the picture of a skinned man under Circulation. As it spreads, it banishes all awareness of physical discomfort — youth’s toothache as well as the neuralgia of old age. The beauty of it is that, while completely intelligible (as if it were connected with a known gland or led to an expected climax), it has neither source nor object. It expands, glows, and subsides without revealing its secret. In the meantime, however, a window has opened, an auroral wind has blown, every exposed nerve has tingled. Presently all dissolves: the familiar worries are back and the eyebrow redescribes its arcof pain; but the artist knows he is ready.

If you want to read more about how Nabokov trod this road of inspiration then you can visit the Brainpickings site.

If nothing else, you’ll find out what a Conchometrist is (one who measures the curves of seashells.)

Neil Gaiman had an amusing answer to the perennial question ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ You can hear it on youtube
Personally, I don’t have such an esoteric view about inspiration. I liken it to a muscle – and we’ve all got muscles haven’t we? Some are born with a large muscle mass, whereas others are not so well endowed. But we can all flex and train them to increase our strength. It’s the same with inspiration – we just need to follow the right program. Here’s some of the exercises I do:

  • Observation – When I’m out and about, whether shopping, on a walk or going to an event I watch the people go by. You’d be surprised at the variety of interesting people that live all around us: Young, old, male, female, trendy, beautiful, ugly, able-bodied or disabled. I also look at the way they walk and talk and imagine their backgrounds. John Le Carrier once said:  It’s part of a writer’s profession, as it’s part of a spy’s profession, to prey on the community to which he’s attached, to take away information – often in secret – and to translate that into intelligence for his masters, whether it’s his readership or his spy masters. And I think that both professions are perhaps rather lonely.
    For example, I was standing around in Carlisle City Centre, waiting for an open air gig to start, when I spotted two men making their way across the plaza. This is what I wrote:

The approach of the two men across the tarmac was like that of a single large mammal – muscled contours of the body but imperfect in gait. As they loomed closer, I perceived they were two separate entities. The one on the right was limping with the aid of crutches in an ungainly fashion – like a cape buffalo with prosthetic legs. The other one strode with a confidence born of machismo and heightened testosterone, his arms swinging widely to circumnavigate the simian, silverback-like chest. Underneath their bald scalps, dripping with sweat, could now be seen ridged brows over-shadowing dark uncomprehending eyes. The lame one sported a plaster cast, the result of a recent injury, judging by his lack of proficiency with the crutches. Yet, in his eyes was a flicker of intelligence – I reckoned him to be the more dangerous of the two. His brother was slightly shorter, but heavier in poundage. Biceps writhed underneath vein pipes, exposed like cords restraining a sack of pythons …

I’ve tentatively them the burrito brothers and their descriptions are going to need some work, but writing it down in situ like this was easy – I just wrote what I saw. They’ve yet to appear in a story, but their time will come.

  • Pictures – I collect images on Pinterest. It’s a great archive of art and photography with a wealth of inspiration to be drawn upon. For example, I’ve got a board called Faces. Whenever I’m stuck for the appearance of a character, I dive into my archive. You can check it out at https://uk.pinterest.com/tomadams3388/faces/  Feel free to follow me and plunder any of the boards I’ve set up. Beware of the one called ‘Dark Light,’ though – some of the images are truly shocking – you have been warned.
  • Phrase thesauruses – when I first saw these I thought it was just cheating. But then I learned that you can use these as a springboard to other descriptions and adapt them accordingly. A rich reference I’ve used is Sybrina Durant’s Phrase Thesaurus  :
Sybrina Durant inspiration

Sybrina Durant’s Phrase thesaurus

 

More recently, I’ve discovered Jackson Dean Chase’s genre specific thesauruses  I’m currently using his horror archive for my short story.

Jackson Dean Chase inspiration

Jackson Dean Chase’s genre specific thesauruses

Not quite a thesaurus, but invaluable as an aid to showing – not only telling is Ackerman and Puglisi’s Emotion Thesaurus .

Emotion thesaurus inspiration

Ackerman and Puglisi’s Emotion Thesaurus

 

This contains a catalogue of different emotions and gives you a list of phrases that depict body language, internal feelings and character traits. There’s also the companion books Positive and negative Traits thesaurus’ which I thoroughly recommend.

  • Reading – I read a lot. Fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, online posts, comics. Sometimes I lift phrases that resonate and keep them in an electronic notes file. Later on I’ll morph the text into something else or, with the longer passages, try to mimic the style with an original piece of writing. Steve Jobs said that good ideas are borrowed, the best ideas are stolen. Now I’m not advocating plagiarism here, but I do think there’s a lot of mileage in studying what works about a certain writer’s style, then using these elements to incorporate into your own voice.

 

  • Write, write write – the inspiration will come. I follow Hemingway’s advice and finish my day’s writing mid-sentence when I’m on a roll. That way, it’s easier to start the next day. Even so, it’s sometimes hard to get the creative juices flowing. I just write anyway, even if it seems mechanical and uninspired. It usually only takes about ten minutes until the words start to flow. Exercising those muscles, see?
Notebook inspiration
  • Keep a notebook – of ideas, characters, opening lines, titles of books. I love my iPhone and iPad. Especially as my files, contacts and calendar are linked between the devices and the cloud. So my notebook is the ‘Notes’ app. Here’s a picture of a typical page from a section I call Book titles:

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of these electronic scribblings will only have meaning for me, but it’s a nice crutch to take a title and build a story round it.

Finally, take a hike – no, I don’t mean it like that.

Actually go for a walk. Many great thinkers extolled the virtues of a good walk, especially in the morning. There’s something about being out in the open air that both inspires and helps get your thoughts in order. If you do this, you’ll be in good company, amongst such luminaries as Charles Darwin, J.R.R. Tolkien and William Wordsworth.

For more on the benefits of a good, country walk, check out:

http://gu.com/p/3yhxg?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Otheru

and http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-these-nine-famous-thinkers-walked-so-much/#axzz3zJlp5PGT

and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/uk/centralengland/739039/Sites-that-shaped-Tolkiens-Lord-of-the-Rings.html

So what are you waiting for? Go out and be inspired to produce those words with a ‘hand that writes and quickly moves away’ (quote courtesy of Ronnie James Dio.)

As ever, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Have you ever wanted to write a story, or even a whole novel? What inspires you? Do you have any tips you can share?

 

 

 

 

 

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