10 Degrees of Inspiration

Where do stories come from?

As authors, we glean our inspiration from every conceivable facet of life, from the art of others (books, movies, music, paintings, etc.) to the minutiae of daily life (a dirty dish, a harvest moon, an annoying coworker). Often, because such an untold number of elements contribute to the evolution of a story, the end product is so far removed from its beginnings that it bears little obvious connection with that first trigger that set our imaginations rolling.

My work-in-progress The Deepest Breath is one of those few stories for which I can remember most of the significant catalysts of inspiration along its road to becoming a full-blown novel. Just for fun, this week, Iā€™m sharing a few of the more prominent stops along that road:

1. Dream

which had elements of

(The newsboys hat – not everyone’s favorite temperamental star.)










And what happens when you put all these disparate ingredients together? So far, the result is a little over 12,000 words of a historical novel set in 1920s Kenya about a tragic accident which dredges up dangerous secrets and unhealed wounds amongst two World War I buddies and the woman they both love.

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. LOVE this idea! I may post a copycat on my blog tomorrow with my own 15 degrees, which means that today YOU are my inspiration. šŸ˜‰

  2. Oh, please do! Send me a link, so I’ll be sure to stop by.

  3. i think I need to do this for some of my WIPs too… definitly would have to be kept to 15, becuase if not, it just might take too long a post to list! lol, everything i write or film usually is a byproduct of something that happened in my life, characters, plots, themes, are usually all things I have witnessed or gone through.

    Thanks for posting. the list was cool, and it’ll be interesting when the book is done to compare and find where the inspirational elements appear in the story.

  4. When it’s all finished, it will be interesting to see if anyone besides me can figure out what inspired what!

  5. I wanna do this sometime…but I can’t think of one that has 15 specifics.

  6. It doesn’t have to be any particular number. Every story and its inspiring factors are different.

  7. It’s fascinating to see other writers’ inspirations! If I can dig back into the depths of my brain and pull out some of mine, I’ll post on my blog, as well. Unfortunately, my different levels of inspiration are often so quick that they get lost!

  8. Actually, my inspirations are usually pretty random and fleeting too. For some reason, this story was different and I was able to remember almost all of the influences along its progression.

  9. This is an awesome post! It’s amazing how and from where we get our ideas, isn’t it?

    Your wip sounds fantastic! Good luck with everything!

  10. Thanks! I’m having a lot of fun with this story. Ideas are everywhere for the taking!

  11. My THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS had its second birth in a dream.

    I dreamed a man in shadows was sitting in my bedroom, holding a bag of 13 coins. He was so happy it was a giveaway from his being among the first 50 in line to get his copy of the bestseller, THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS.

    I awakened with shivers. Hibbs, the bear with 2 shadows, was the creation of my mother. She told me of his adventures that terrible winter we were trapped in the basement apartment for days without power and me with pneumonia.

    So I have written that Native American/Celtic fable. And no agents have gotten the shivers from my queries yet. But there’s always tomorrow.

    As always you have a thought-provoking post, Roland

  12. If *you* get the shivers from your story, it’s a sure bet someone else will as well! It’s just a matter of finding that person.

  13. Very cool! I love it! Hmm. Oh man, my idea started with Glee, then moved into some sort of mystery. I’m not sure if I can come up with 15 things. Maybe a football game too since the MC loves football.

    Great idea! Great post ;o)

  14. Glee as a mystery – I love it! I had a story inspired by football (a dismal season, in fact) too.

  15. This is cool, Kim. Just thinking about my current WIP several images and experiences spanning 15 or 20 years come to mind that helped shape the book. It’s a really interesting road map for a story.

  16. I had a read of this and I must say, inspiring as always =] (I only discovered your blog and vlog a few days ago).
    As a relatively new writer, well. . new to novel length writing anyway, I have found your blog/vlog very helpful and rather inspiring.

    Kudos from Australia =]


  17. Okay, here is my link:

    That was really fun! šŸ™‚

  18. Well, I went ahead and posted the inspirations for my own work in progress: http://scribblesandinkstains.blogspot.com/2010/08/levels-of-inspiration.html

    Thanks for the idea! It was very enjoyable.

  19. @Paul: I’m sure you have plenty of interesting “inspirations” in a span of 20 years!

    @Lucas: I’m so pleased you’re finding the blog helpful!

    @Lydia: Great list! It *was* fun, wasn’t it?

    @Abigail: Love it! I’m tickled you all have decided to share your own lists. Lots of fun!

  20. This is a brilliant idea. It gives readers and followers a chance to look in at what makes your brain whirl. I went ahead and did likewise on my blog: http://thepenslayer.blogspot.com/2010/08/fifteen-things-that-inspire-me-to-write.html Thanks!

  21. Thanks so much for sharing. I love seeing what makes others’ brains “whirl” myself!

  22. Great post! I referenced you in my post for this Friday, 8/27. It’s about Turkey (the country) and crocuses. Thanks!


  23. Thanks for the link! I appreciate it.

  24. Really cool idea! I may have to use it somewhere down the line!

    Also, I just have to say — love, Love, LOVE Delta Goodrem!

  25. I’m not crazy about many of her other songs, but this one rocks. šŸ™‚

  26. Very fun! Thanks for sharing. You had me from the word “moon.”

  27. Funny I read this post the day I had such a sweet way of getting inspiration. Tonight I had a dream, not some roughy-doughy glimpses, but a full blown one. Which is now put down in my diary and is definitely gonna be one of my future novels. It was about World War setting, a family busy having there holidays. When suddenly things gets messed up and their father got killed. Now I am planning a whole lot more things about it. Like things got really bad, and the only survivor of such an innocent vacation trip turns out to be their daughter. I also caught a glimpse (in my dream) about hard feelings between the deceased father and mother. Since his father had gotten involved in some other girl at that journey. It is possible I will work on that too. But it will be a future project. šŸ™‚

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Some of my favorite story ideas have come from dreams. The ones that do are always very vivid.

  28. Hannah Killian says

    My current WIP is Robin Hood & Cinderella meshed together during the Golden Age of Piracy in Scotland.

    I’ve got 6,832 words so far, and desperately need to outline it because everything’s happening too fast.

    P.S. I take it The Deepest Breath was shelved/scrapped?

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