As y’all may or may not know, I’ve been traveling in New Zealand for the last three weeks.
One of the things I love about traveling is discovering how I’ve changed once I return–what fits, what doesn’t, what’s really important and what can just slide out of my life.
In terms of story inspiration, often, I write about characters with heightened senses. Travel helps me experience this.
Radar: I’ve been on my own for three weeks in a foreign country. New Zealand is pretty easy to travel through–it’s more vacation (holiday) than travel.
However, I haven’t been anywhere familiar for quite some time. I never stayed more than two nights in any location–most of the time I was just at a place for a single night.
What I’ve discovered since returning is that my radar–my awareness of what’s going on around me–has expanded greatly. I live in a city, in a neighborhood where people get mugged sometimes. I’ve always had a level of awareness of what’s going on around me.
Right now, my radar is cranked up. My circle of awareness has increased by at least half a block or so. I’m aware of everything and everyone in my sphere, and that includes up in the trees, all the birds.
Bag lady: For the last three weeks, I’ve carried all my possessions in these two bags:
(And yes, I’ll do a post later about traveling light.)
The green backpack primarily held my clothes. It didn’t contain any valuables. I stayed in youth hostels the entire time, which meant I was sleeping in a shared room dormitory. Anyone at anytime could have broken into that bag, or walked off with it. So I didn’t keep anything of serious value in it.
Instead, I kept my valuables in my black bag, which included my wallet, camera, phone, and iPad. (I also wore a money belt that contained my extra cash, credit cards, and passport.) The black bag never left my side. I slept with it on the bed next to me every night.
I noticed this morning (the first day back) that I was having difficulty leaving anything out on the counter. I’d take something out of my bag then put it right back. I live by myself in my marvelous house, but it took a few hours before I could break the habit of putting everything into a bag and keeping it hidden away.
So what does this have to do with story inspiration? It doesn’t take much to expand these sorts of characteristics, to exaggerate them, and generate either a character tag or a huge bit of backstory for a character.
Neither of these things would make a character. They’re just pieces. But put together, they could be a great influence.
There are other things from my travels that will make it into my stories. I just thought I’d start with these two.
What about you? What do you notice when you return from a trip? What sort of things will inspire you first?