by Trish Milburn
I admit it. I hate it when I hear someone call television the “idiot box.” Um, I like TV. Does that make me an idiot? Far from it. In fact, I am a big believer in writers (writing being one type of creative form) gaining inspiration from TV programs and movies (two other types of creative forms). I have proof in the form of my manuscript, Coven, which won the Golden Heart in the Young Adult category this year. Let’s go back in time a bit...
I call the months of June and July 2006 my Summer of Buffy. Why, you ask? Well, I was in the serious writer pits. I’d been writing a long time, submitting for several years, adding rejections to the file in my filing cabinet at about the rate I was adding gray hairs to my head. The weeks were counting down to another RWA National Conference that I would likely be attending as an unpublished author. Was it time to face the fact that selling a book just wasn’t in the cards for me? Was I supposed to be doing something else, something besides beating my head against the wall? Add to this the fact that I got sick with some type of crud, and moving from the bed to the couch was the highlight of each day. A friend loaned me the first couple of seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. I’d heard about this show and its characters endlessly at writers’ conferences, but I’d never seen it. Time to figure out what all the hoopla was about. Besides, it’d help get me through the summer.
Imagine my surprise when those two seasons didn’t last more than a few days and I was hitting up my friend for more seasons. I was a woman possessed with the need to know what happened next. Seriously, I was watching eight to ten episodes a day. When I finished all seven seasons of Buffy, I moved on to the five seasons of Angel, then the first season of Supernatural. And while I was lounging away on the couch crying for Buffy and Angel and eagerly anticipating the start of the second season of Supernatural that fall, my excitement for writing was building in the back of my mind. By the end of the summer, I had an idea for a paranormal YA percolating in my mind. The excitement kept building and didn’t wane as I started to write what would become Coven, not even at the point that should have been the sagging middle. Because of the inspiration I got from watching TV, I’d regained the joy of writing and actually pulled myself out of my funk. That’s pretty powerful if you ask me.
I, of course, don’t lift entire plots or characters from programs or movies, but elements of those shows spark ideas of my own. It could be a line of dialogue (Dean Winchester from Supernatural and Spike from Buffy and Angel have some of the best lines!), some characteristic of a character, even the look of a character. Jared Padalecki, who plays Sam Winchester on Supernatural, was the inspiration for the hero in Coven. I like those tall, lean guys.
Out of Sight, my finalist in the current American Title contest sponsored by Dorchester Publishing and Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine was partly inspired by a what-if question and partly as a result of my fascination with characters with special abilities, superpowers. Characters like Superman, the X-Men and the Bionic Woman.
I don’t think a writer’s brain ever truly turns off, even when the owner of said brain is taking a break. If you’re parked in front of the silver screen or the small screen, more than likely some part of your brain is processing the stories and characters you’re seeing, trying to figure out if there’s something there to spark a story idea of your own — something unique from but inspired by someone else’s creation. And that’s pretty cool.
Is that my TiVo calling me?
Trish Milburn is a several-time Golden Heart finalist and winner (most recently in 2007 with her YA Coven and author of Heartbreak River, soon to be released by Razorbill/Penguin. She is also, as previously mentioned, a finalist in the American Title contest, so don't forget to go vote!