Inspiration & the Muse – Part I

Christmas is over and we’re getting ready for the New Year festivities. That won’t stop me from writing a little something about a subject that’s been tumbling around in my head the last weeks. Well, truth be told it’s been tumbling around in there quite often for a much longer time–most of my life, I suspect. On a frequent basis, even if now and then it is gone for a while. It always comes back in some form or other…

What is inspiration?

What inspires?

I will not come up with some fancy catch-all answer to these two questions. Don’t worry. I know very well it’s close to impossible–and if I tried it would probably be pretty boring to read. No, instead I will take up the subject once in a while, and write something new about it, add a new angle to it. And perhaps it even makes a little sense to anyone reading this blog.

Perhaps it can even inspire? Who knows?

Anyway, what can inspire a good horror story (or a good weird tale, if you’re more comfortably with that)? The answer can be summed up like this, I think: Anything. Anything can inspire a good tale. The main premise for any story to be good is, I think, in the execution; if it is well written (broadly defined, since the criteria for this crucial element can vary) a story will end up being good, regardless of what inspired it. That’s almost a given. But what I want to focus on now is the inspiration part, not the good part. And, really, inspiration can come from anywhere. From your imagination, from your favorite authors (hell, even those you don’t like!), from newspapers, real-life events, from any bookshelf you see…

It’s true. Here’s a sample of ideas I’ve gotten from simply taking a random look at my Academic/Scholarly works here in my office at home:

The End of the World by John Leslie. Okay, almost too easy, right? The title alone is almost a cliché within horror tales (and some sci-fi areas too). But still–perhaps one can blend it with, say, Antonio R. Damasio’s Descartes’ Error? You can of course try to go into details of what these two books are trying to say, if you want to go technical, but you can also cook up an interesting idea of some philosopher/scientist who discovers that Descartes’ dualism turns out to be more true than most scientists of today believe–but that his idea of the function of the pineal body turns out to be a keystone to understanding higher (and darker) dimensions–ultimately unleashing unnameable horrors on the world, hence an “end of the world” scenario.

Robert M. Pirsig: Lila. An Inquiry Into Morals. Well, I actually co-wrote a 10,000 word story with this one as a central piece. The idea of big cities as living creatures/monsters is nothing new, I know, but at the time we thought we gave it a new spin with adding philosophical elements from Pirsig’s book–and placing it all in a remote country side in Poland. Oh–adding touches of genealogy, for good measures. (No, this story has never been published. What I talk about here is inspiration, not necessarily publication;-))

The Language of Metaphors by Andrew Goatly and I Am A Strange Loop by Douglas R. Hofstadter. Ooh, weird ideas demanding attention now! A man wakes up to discover that whenever he speaks what he says turns into physical reality of some sort, right in front of him and everyone else. His wife is scared shitless (pardon my French) and divorces him, and soon he has to run away from authorities who want to take a clinical, scientific look at him to find out what’s going on. At some point he–along with the reader–discovers that certain things seem to be recurring themes ever since he woke up that fateful morning. Perhaps he even starts to hear strange voices, or see–briefly, in too short glimpses–something “in between spaces” of what he experiences?

Well, just a few, quick ideas.

Oh, and I did I tell you of the time I wrote a short story inspired by a name in a Norwegian Phone Book? It ended up with the title “Just An Accountant” and is also part Lovecraft, part Philip K. Dick on the inspirational side.

Inspiration is a strange, wonderful thing, coming in the strangest places. Again, I am not saying the stories are bound to be good stories, but if you are truly inspired when you write it can’t go all wrong.

You get the idea, right?

I look forward to hearing some of your inspirations.

And Happy New Year’s Eve, everybody! (Perhaps something you experience that night will inspire you?)

One thought on “Inspiration & the Muse – Part I

  1. Well, Henrik, now you’ve got me sitting and starring at my book shelves …! It may not be horror but still. Haruki Murakami ‘The Elephant vanishes’ combined with ‘The Magicians’ by Lev Grossman is almost too easy – but I guess something fun could be made out of ‘The Elephant Vanishes’ and ‘We are all made of glue’ byMarina Lewycka…!

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