Building an Inspiration Portfolio

Where does a writer get inspiration for writing? Well, speaking for myself anyway, the answer is ‘pretty much everywhere’. A random line dropped at a store; a sibling’s innocent comment; a heartrending scene in a movie; a thrilling scene from a book; or a random line or picture of my own which tickles my brain right before I fall asleep. But even a writer can only remember so much, which is why long ago I started building what I like to call my inspiration portfolio.

An inspiration portfolio is so much fun to build that I’d probably do it simply for the sake of building it. But not only is it fun, it can also be very helpful. I’ve divided mine into three main categories.

Words:

By far the largest category is ‘words’. Originally I had a notebook where I wrote down all the random lines I heard or thought of. I’d other sections for descriptions and others for one line story ideas. But there was simply too much material and, as cool as paper was (and still is) I eventually transferred everything to my computer.

Right now, my portfolio consists of several documents. The largest is titled ‘sayings, descriptions, and one-liners’. It runs over 100 pages and has hundreds of says, categorized under ‘happy/hopeful/inspiring’ to ‘bad guy lines’ and ‘danger/war/fighting’. Some of these lines are based off of books or movies, while others I came up with on my own. I would suggest, when taking lines from movies, to either write down the line exactly as it was spoke and make a note of where it came from, or else change it slightly before you even write it down. This is something regret not doing in the past; it’s nice knowing what is my own idea and what isn’t. This isn’t to say you can never use a direct quote from a movie; there are only so many combinations of how something can be said after all, but I tend to reword slightly most if not all the time.

My descriptions range from a few sentences describing a misty morning to a detailed paragraph laying out the step by step process of my face becoming numb during a dental visit. And one-lines are exactly that that, random phrases such as ‘a dungeon of ice’ or ‘calling helicopters helochoppers’ or ‘hopeless climb’. I also have a page of titles; catchy one-liners full of promise.

The beauty of using a computer and something like Microsoft word is that you can easily locate all your different categories as well as simply search for a keyword. Fore example, when love was a theme for a book, I searched for the word love and then skimmed through all the entries which came up. It’s not a perfect system, but better than trying to do it all manually.

My second largest document bears the title ‘plots, themes, ideas, scenes’. Any fragments of a plot or theme idea I get goes there, along with character ideas, beginning lines for stories, and the bare bones of cool scenes. Again, everything is categorized to help me find what I want easier.

I also have several more documents, some containing names I’ve run across, others holding full scenes I’ve written but which don’t belong to any stories, and others containing interesting bits of research that I can someday throw in a story.

Pictures:

My second largest category is pictures. I use Pinterest for this and have dozens of boards now. Some contain pictures of all sorts which could be used for a character. Young men, older men, women, children…fantasy creatures. I’ve also boards full of random quotes or story prompts and others with inspirational pictures or random pictures of cool items which could be in a story. Pinterest is afloat with ideas of all kinds and you can get a glimpse of my boards here.

Once I decide to write a story, I make a storyboard and go through all my other relevant boards, pulling in the various characters, lines, and settings I think could help me write my story. To be quite frank, sometimes I get so much material it’s as much a hindrance as a help because there are so many cool things I could do and I have to settle on one. But I will say that finding pictures of characters has helped me develop them more than anything else since discovering character questionnaires.

Songs:

There are some songs I listen too over and over simply because they seem so full of story ideas Mordred’s Lullaby, for example…a weird dark song but perfect for a villain. Or the Plague song in Prince of Egypt or Once Upon a December from Anastasia (though I don’t recommend the movie but this song is really cool). Songs can be perfect for characters or stories and, though they take up a much smaller percentage of space than either words or pictures, they are too moving to ignore.

Now please note, this is how I have structured my writing portfolio. There are many different ways you can form one of your own, and there may be other categories which you have which I’ve skipped over. And that’s perfectly find because there isn’t one right way to set up a portfolio. You could have photo albums or photo books or notebooks or files. But, however you structure it, an inspiration portfolio you can search through when you’re working on developing a story, or are stuck wanting something to write, is a great help to any writer. Plus, it’s great fun to create.

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7 Comments

  1. That’s a great idea, Hope. I have got to do that.

  2. Corissa, Maiden of Praise

    Oh wow… Mordred’s Lullaby is-um- creepy. Is it from something, or just a weird song? You’re right, it would be perfect for a villain… I’m still shuddering inwardly.

    • It’s based off Mordred and his mother, Morgana, from Arthurian Legend. I’m not as well versed in Arthurian Legend as I would like to be, but I know that much. (I’m still trying to work up the nerve to study the Legend in depth 😉 )
      Morgana was raising Mordred to kill King Arthur, against whom she obviously has a grudge.
      Poor guy never had a chance— Mordred, that is. She never gave him an opportunity to be anything else. 🙁 He died.

      • Corissa, Maiden of Praise

        How sad! I could never kill a character off without giving him a chance to develop some of his own personality… at least, not before he’d made his decision about who’s side he was really on. Then I might kill him. 🙂
        The song reminded me a little of Oliver Twist, although there were some obvious differences; I don’t know why that’s what it reminded me of. Anyway, thanks for filling me in Fereleth. 😉

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