Wednesday, March 21, 2018

6 Ways to Find Writing Inspiration in Your Own Life - Guest Post by JPC Allen

Do you think your life is too boring to inspire your writing? I know I did when I was a teenager and started to pursue the art. It was only after I finished college and moved to another part of the state that I could see the qualities that made my upbringing unique.

Pin This!

When I conduct my writing workshops for teens, I give them a worksheet to help them examine their lives like outsiders. Below are six categories you can delve into to find writing inspiration in your own life.

Family and Friends

Does your family or friends have an interesting ethnic or cultural background? I didn’t know it until I moved away from home for my first job that my Appalachian background made me different from those who didn’t grow up in that area. I used unique words, like “lopper-jawed” for crooked, and ate things like pepperoni rolls, which no co-worker had seen before.

A mine of information can exist in your own family history. Ask older relatives about family history. As a teenager, my grandfather injured his hand and lost a finger. He told me how he made himself use that hand to do his farm chores so it could regain its original dexterity. And this was long before physical therapy.


These include hobbies, school subjects, talents, and skills. If you hate math, don’t make your character a math whiz. Have her be a whiz at something you like. I love horses, so I created a family of minor characters who work with horses. Since it is something I’m already interested in, I enjoyed doing research on it.


Even if you have lived in the same place your entire life, you may not know it as well as you think. The local library or historical society can help you discover what’s unique about your hometown. When we visit my in-laws, my family and I travel every summer to the coast of North Carolina. I had no idea how interesting this area was until I started digging into its past. For example, archaeologists believe they have found the remains of one of Blackbeard’s ships off the coast. Historical fiction, anyone?

If you really want to understand an area, walk it. I live on a river, and no matter how many times I see it, there is always something new to discover about it.


Give your characters your likes and dislikes, gestures and quirks, or those of people you know or have watched. I found an interesting gesture for a male character – scratching at the right sideburn with the left hand – from watching an actor from the 1940’s. I love the smell of coffee but can’t stand to drink it. Little details like these make your characters come alive.


Any kind of work, paid or volunteer, can provide oodles of information. I worked in fast food in college and know how hectic and demanding it is. Giving a character that kind of job brings an authenticity to my writing. I was a librarian for ten years in public libraries, so I know how those places operate. That familiarity made me think of a great clue for a murder mystery: a man supposedly commits suicide, but a librarian friend doesn’t buy it because he picked up books he had ordered through inter-library loan just few hours before he died.  


Animals are so interesting to work with that they can provide all kinds of inspiration. My son did a 4-H project on alpacas. I could write a children’s book from the alpacas’ point of view. Or from that of their guard dog. Or I could write middle grade fiction about a group of kids training alpacas. Or I could write a humorous story about all the trials my son had with his alpaca Caylene.

What other parts of your life can you explore for inspiration? Share in the comments below!

About the Author

JPC Allen found the inspiration for her first story from watching Scooby Doo when she was in second grade. She is a 2016 semi-finalist for her contemporary YA novel
The Truth and Other Strangers in the ACFW’s Genesis contest. An English major and former children’s librarian, she loves to introduce tweens and teens to the adventure of writing through her workshops. She offers writing tips and prompts for beginning writers at and A lifelong Buckeye, JPC Allen has deep root in the Mountain State.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by my blog!