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  • Yessica Jain

Using the Real World as Inspiration

Observation is the key to good writing. Whether you write realistic fiction or high fantasy or anything in between, grounding aspects of your book in reality makes it a more relatable and interesting read. That’s why this week’s post focuses on implementing real-world observations into your story.


Characters

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but it’s worth mentioning again. It’s hard to create people and even harder to ensure their qualities and personality are coherent and sensible, but it is essential to keep readers engaged.

Sometimes, the best way to develop a relatable character with a consistent voice and personality is to base it on a real person. This may be especially helpful for developing supporting characters. Even though you may not know them as well and they may only exist for certain sections of your book, it is essential that every character in your book is well-developed. If you need to take from reality to do so, that’s completely okay.

The key to basing a character on a real person is to actually get to know the person. It’s often easy to discover someone’s likes, dislikes, profession, and other surface-level details, but a good character needs depth. What makes them tick? What life experiences made them who they are today? What kind of people do they spend their time with?

Even if you don’t plan on using someone for inspiration, meeting and getting to know new people opens you up to new ideas and knowledge that could subconsciously benefit your writing (and you!). So, while it might feel like writing is a hobby for introverts, it is actually a good excuse to be extroverted.

For more details about character creation, see this post.


Dialogue

In every genre with characters that speak (so, pretty much every genre), dialogue plays a major role in storytelling. It is used for characterization, plot advancement, humor, and so much more. But writing dialogue that sounds natural can be difficult, especially when characters have voices that are very distinct from yours.

That means you might have to rely on sources outside your own imagination to get the perfect dialogue exchange. I’m not recommending you eavesdrop on people (i.e. that’s exactly what I’m doing), but public places are a great place to find dialogue inspiration. Instead of listening to music, listen to the conversations around you. Think about the differences in syntax, vocabulary, and formality between the speech of people of different backgrounds.

Do the same with your own conversations. How do the people you interact with speak differently from you? Do they have different speaking habits when talking to different people?

And if you hear something that sounds like it belongs in a story, write it down. If your friends and family members know you’re a writer, they (hopefully) won’t judge you if you take out your phone to jot down notes in the middle of a conversation.


Setting

While it may seem like a fantasy world bears no resemblance to our planet today, that’s not necessarily true. Our world is full of crazy places (see this website for some examples!). Dubai’s skyscrapers could serve as inspiration for a futuristic sci-fi setting. And if you’re writing an adventure story based in a forest, what better place to get in touch with the sounds, smell, and feel of your setting than an actual forest?

If you can’t actually go to the place you want to base your setting on, do look at pictures, watch documentaries, and talk to people who may have gone there. It’s important to try and understand your setting from the perspective of multiple senses to be able to truly transport your reader.


All in all, the real world is a perfect place to find inspiration for your characters, dialogue, and setting. Therefore, it’s essential that you take time not only to observe people and things around you in your daily life but also to go outside your comfort zone by meeting new people and exploring new places.


How do you get inspiration for your writing? Let me know in the comments!

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