On several occasions, I've finished a novel only to pause and think, Dang-it! I wish I'd written that. I doubt I'm alone in that sentiment. So, last night, in a fit of insomnia, I thought about some classic (or soon-to-be classic) books that can inspire us in our writings. Whether you're in between projects and looking for something to jump-start a new WIP, need an idea for a short story, or would like to stretch your creative membranes, I hope these prompts will fuel your creative bonfire.
Charlotte's Web: Take an animal character in your story and let him take center stage. Perhaps he can communicate with other animals or even the two-legged creatures in your story.
The Art of Racing in the Rain: One of my favorite novels of all-time, this story is also told from an animal's point of view--Enzo the dog--but Garth Stein also melds two worlds that you might not imagine together: A dog and auto racing. Maybe in your book you take a character who shouldn't know much about a subject, and yet does, and tell the story from their unique perspective. For example, maybe the grandmother is an expert at assault weaponry. Or perhaps the toddler, who spends too much unsupervised time parked in front of the television, has become quite knowledgeable about African culture from watching The History Channel.
To Kill a Mockingbird: The classic story is told from the point of view of Scout, a precocious, motherless child. Perhaps you have a story to tell from a character wise beyond her years due to a life-changing event.
Novels by Pat Conroy or Carl Hiaasen: I dare you to get one chapter into either of these authors' works and not feel a sense of place. Conroy anchors much of his novels in and around South Carolina's Low Country and Hiaasen's devotion to Florida's everglades gives his novels both a setting and a launchpad for his concern about their preservation. What settings are you passionate about? Your hometown? A camp where you spent every summer of your youth? Your grandparents' lake house? Find a place that speaks to you and tell your story there.
Calling Me Home: Our own Julie Kibler found inspiration for her novel from a bit of family folklore. Her father once told her about his mother's first love--an African American boy her white family didn't approve of. Dig around in your family's history and see if there isn't a story waiting to be told. Did Aunt Beatrice get pardoned by the governor for a crime no one will talk about? Be the one to tell a fictionalized version of it.
Agents have been known to say they're looking for "great stories well-told." You don't have to reinvent the story-telling wheel. Just find a unique, inspired way of telling it.