I have been thinking a lot. These are the haunting thoughts: the ones that stick to your insides like grits or dumplings or other food I generally don’t eat because I’m secretly programmed to eat curries and strange vegetable casseroles I make-up out of culinary laziness. (And a general lack of interest in following a recipe). These haunting thoughts have nothing to do with food. They have to do with inconsolable things. This post from writer unboxed inspired me to write the following.
It’s important to define what haunts you as an artist. The voices of ages 11-18 inspire me. There is something this age group that is still misunderstood even though they are the subject of a lot of controversial/trashy TV shows. They are a large part of why I started writing seriously and tend to be my target audience for 80% of what I aim to publish. I disagree that I write because I am inconsolable, I write to find the consolation in things I still don’t understand. Like your sixteen year old, I believe the world should be fair. I still don’t understand why it isn’t and why people who have the ability to make it fair hoard when they could share.
The pathway of inspiration (excerpted from my writer unboxed comment):
I’ve taught “public” school for nine years. Before I became a teacher I worked in mental health as a drama therapist and research assistant for PTSD (combat trauma and stressful life events). I have always been compelled by people’s stories, their struggle and what they’ve decided to do with the tenuous hold they have on their lives.
When I started working solely with kids, I witnessed a struggle of an entirely different magnitude: children can rarely be actors unto themselves. They must adapt because they have few other choices. Their world is defined by people who often don’t have their best interests at heart. I wrestle with feeling powerless in a sea of so much need and despair: witnessing adult needs trump the necessary emotional and physical needs of children (I’m not talking about Junior having the latest gadget, game or gizmo). I try to nourish voices I don’t feel are heard in the “mainstream” into the characters in my plays, books and short stories.
I want to give my teen characters abilities and talents that free them from their oppressive climate in a way I think every child has the ability as they mature into adulthood. I fundamentally believe in hope and redemption at some level. I don’t start a story with that idea in mind, but I am beginning to believe that a story, such as my novel, The Curse of Beal Atha, that started with a girl whose Mum is abusive and father has disappeared is less about time traveling and more about finding yourself when others are trying to define you only by what you can do for them. It is possible to free oneself from the identity others have imposed on you.
Perhaps the fact I grew up in Japan in a military family and have now lived half my life abroad helps to give rise to the need for “third culture” youth voices or that I love rooting for whomever I feel is the underdog at the time. I want to feel that my characters are real people who exist somewhere; people who someday I’ll meet and feel like we’ve known each other forever. And perhaps, when that day arrives, consolation shall as well.
What inspires you and keeps you going? Is it a haunting story, a particular theme you enjoy or do your characters also speak to you? Feel free to share below.