Inspired By True Events
As a writer, one question I’m always asked is where I derive my inspiration from. The short answer is the world. Everything and everyone and the possibilities of all things fascinate me endlessly. I don’t understand the sentiment or state of boredom. There are so many things I want to see and do, that I’m decades behind on watching all the popular television shows and movies, new music is old before I’ve even listened to it, and I read multiple books at any one time. This doesn’t include people or places I want to visit and spend time with, and then there are activities—sports to watch and play, games to win, rollercoasters to ride… my list is endless. And it’s also not enough for me to do something once—I rewatch movies, reread books, eat food until I’m sick of it, seek out food I’m craving, climb, paddleboard, or swim until I never want to do those things ever again. I need to know everything about everything.
Some writers begin with plots, or situations, or questions, or concepts, or well-thought-out ideas. I imagine, for me, starting or knowing anything about my story would make things easier. But I’m positive I’m a masochist, a quintessential doomed tortured artist, obsessive and moody.
In another life, maybe I’m Bruce Wayne.
But I’m me, and whatever or whoever I’m in the mood to obsess over becomes my inspiration de jour.
The global pandemic gave me the time to catch up on seventeen seasons of Grey’s Anatomy and in theory, I fell in love with McDreamy, because he was brilliant but flawed. He was the older man, wore turtlenecks like no one’s business and his hair was everything. At the same time, my real-life hero, Serena Williams was taking a break from tennis to have a baby and a young tennis phenom called Naomi Osaka was taking the sport by storm. I was obsessed with them both.
Patrick Dempsey inspired Deacon Dorsey, and Naomi inspired Cheramie. Though Deacon and Cheramie’s fictional personalities are nothing like people they were inspired by, when I think about them, it’s Patrick and Naomi’s faces I see. And their town squabble? Inspired by a decades long contested piece of land in the town where I live.
In My Christmas with You, Danny was inspired by real-life professional hockey player, Steven Stamkos. He became the fictional stand-in for my real-life type—basically tall hockey players. I’ve only ever dated one non-hockey player and coincidentally, he was also the only one under six feet tall. Mabel was modeled after Rosario Dawson, who is my husband’s type. I’m not sure if I did that on purpose or if I was working something out subconsciously. That’s part of my inspiration too. Once I have my characters to my stories, I follow them around, observe what they do, try to understand their feelings and write down what I see.
“What I see” is basically me daydreaming, making stories up in my head, wondering why, or how the heck is he or she going to explain whatever happened. My characters surprise me all the time. This is my favorite part about being a creative. Inspiration comes from nowhere and everywhere.
How do I know what I will obsess over next? I never know until I’m in it.
For a while it was Harry Styles, then Darren Criss, and lately it’s Cillian Murphy after binge watching Peaky Blinders. Currently, I’m obsessed with my curly hair, paddleboarding, and my witch’s cat Sapphire who has a puffer and a dietician.
The moral of this story? Life is fascinating and there’s a story, or two, or twenty, in everything. You just have to look and listen.
About the Author
Fortune’s stories are “charming, silly and emotionally fraught” with “fast-paced plot[s] that keep pages flying”. When she’s not at her standing desk fending off feline invaders, you can find her on her yoga mat, or shelving books at the local library. Keep up with her @fortunewhelan everywhere.