Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer Vacations ~ Seeds of Inspiration

Just as we bring books on summer vacations, vacations also bring books to us - novel ideas popping up for plots, characters and settings. As we record notes in our journals while on vacation we find new detail and color from our new settings and from the characters we meet - including the thunder storm that drives you off the beach, the wind that forces you off the mountain or the interesting individual taking the desk clerk to task at the hotel.

So suddenly you have a new scene in your novel - your main character struggles though a physical or emotional storm only to be confronted with a raging opponent as irrational as the hotel guest. Or your new poem holds the beauty of an unexpected pleasure that you accidentally discovered when you took the side lane past the cliffs or the trail off the main path.

Often the writer is not conscious of the experience that prompts the inclusion of some wisp of memory into a conversation or character's thoughts into her novel. At times, it's a conscious design.

Many of our group's manuscripts or published books seem to leap from vacation and travel jaunts. Gale's wonderful picture book, PAJAMA LIGHT, set on the coast of Maine, where her family has summered, is all about summer, memories of families and the sea, and a lullaby about watching for the lighthouse's lamp to turn on, the signal for children to go to bed. Robin's YA novel whose main character learns and grows during a summer at the Jersey shore, where Robin spent summers, is about accepting yourself and your families with their warts and all, growing up, and summer at the beach with the boardwalk, popcorn and cotton candy. Judy's MG novel for boys centers on summer and the baseball stadium as Carson strives to win the big prize and help his family too.

The inspiration for my book, CANYON, grew each time we toured and hiked a different and glorious canyon in the American southwest. Meg's fascinating historical novel of late medieval England was sparked by her time living in London and the long history that permeates that city. And Janice's intriguing sci fi MG novel is set on a distant planet - a magical place. Perhaps we should include it in our travel plans?

How do you capture the seeds you might glean from travel and vacation and how do you nurture these seedlings of new material into your writing?


  1. For me, it's not so much the story elements I glean from summer travels, but the frame of mind being "away from it all" brings me. When I'm relaxed after a vacation I find my writing much richer. Ideas come more easily.

  2. "Write what you know" - we've all heard that phrase a million times. It's what we do, even if what we know is only a tiny, tiny bit - an emotion, a place, a situation - gleaned from a summer vacation.

  3. When vacationing at the shore, I tend to write stories about sandy summer scenes. Maybe it's my way of making those carefree days last longer!

  4. I wonder what the seasonal stats are -- more books set in summer?