As a fantasy romance novelist, I tend to live outside of my own reality. My mind wanders far and wide to worlds unseen, to characters I can’t even begin to find on Pinterest, to ideas that are nearly impossible to nail down. I lean a lot on my dreams for writing inspiration, but when the well runs dry or I’m stuck in a reality rut, where do I turn? How do I find the magical in everyday existence?
3 ways to find writing inspiration for fantasy-esque books
Some of these ideas might be a tad off the wall, but if you’re looking for writing inspiration that favors the magical, here are a few things to consider.
Not every facet of writing inspiration will work for you, but if you’re curious about how I get the juices flowing for story ideas, then keep reading.
Yes, I sometimes get inspiration from good old-fashioned movies, HBO series (helllloooo Game of Thrones) and Netflix binges. But to be completely honest, I get the most enjoyment and ideas thanks to anime.
There’s just something truly fascinating about pairing beautiful art to magical plotlines. In animes with magic, the impossible is possible, the uncommon common—and I eat it up.
Regardless of whether you prefer voice-over English versions (I’m a subtitle, original girl all the way), think the plotlines are just ridiculous, or don’t like “cartoon-y” depictions of stories, you have to admire the way these writers push boundaries and challenge their characters. Plus, the visuals! I mean, c’mon. Anime and manga are the reasons I wish I could draw. I’m obsessed.
So whenever I’m in a rut, I turn to Netflix or Crunchyroll and pick a new series. To date, some of my favorites (in terms of writing inspiration) are:
- Hunter x Hunter
- Iron-Blooded Orphans
- Fate Stay: Ultimate Blade Works
- Sword Art Online
- Tokyo Ghoul
- Seven Deadly Sins
- Re: Zero
- My Hero Academia
- Fairy Tail
… and so many others. I know I’m missing some biggies, here, so don’t shoot me.
2. Video games
I LOVE video games. But the video games I love might not be what you expect. In fact, depending on my mood and what I need to get out of my writing, I fall until two separate schools of video games:
Non-fantasy role playing games
When I need to totally detach from writing and the crazy worlds I live in, I run to a game that’s so therapeutic, so mind-numbing in its simplicity, so endless that the end credits really mean nothing, that I’m able to separate and recharge. Folks, that game is Harvest Moon (and Harvest Moon-like games, such as Stardew Valley, Story of Seasons, etc.).
I still laugh when I think about my brother’s skepticism toward the love of the game: “I don’t understand, Max. I play video games to escape reality. You play video games to do chores.”
To a degree, he’s right. Harvest Moon is largely about running a farm. Tilling your fields. Taking care of livestock. Wooing your bachelor/ette of choice. Raising a family. By that respect, I also enjoy playing The Sims from time to time, but my favorite will always be Harvest Moon. The day-to-day “mundane” tasks allow me to break from the fantasy and give my mind some peace.
Fun fact: I used to lead raids on World of Warcraft. I was an orc mage in a guild (and pretty good friends with the guild master at the time), and we’d get together and tackle all sorts of dungeons with our fellow members. It’s a blast. I love the magic. The storylines. The beautiful visuals and worlds and creatures and types of characters. The possibilities are endless. Nowadays, I don’t play WoW as much (if ever) because I’m a bit too competitive, and I don’t have the time to pour into making my toon great again.
Now, Kingdom Hearts? Final Fantasy? SWEET PARADISE ARE THESE GAMES MY JAM. Magic. Unique plots. Character interactions and relationships. MAGIC. If I’m struggling to articulate something, I often turn to these type of games to see how others visualize certain facets of power/magic. They fill my love cup, and I’ll play them for the rest of my life.
I think a lot of writers find inspiration in their dreams. So yeah, this one might not be as off-the-wall or specific to fantasy romance as one might think. But for me, they certainly are. For as long as I can remember, not a single night has gone by where I haven’t had a dream. And if you recall from my earlier post about my writing journey, I used to struggle with night terrors.
Dreams have always been a source of writing inspiration for me, and I often wake up with fully formed ideas and concrete characters that I immediately need to write down.
The biggest problem with dreams? I’ve never been a lucid dreamer. Meaning, I can’t control them. So I can’t will myself to have a dream to fill my writing inspiration cup. I’ll have a dream, sure, but the nature and fantasy level are never consistent. Problem two? When I have a dream that I can lean on for inspiration, it’s all over the place. Plot holes. Inconsistencies. Crazy characters that have no place popping up in my stories. Editing one of my dream novels becomes a hard process because I can’t go back to my dream to figure it out, and a lot of threads end before I can figure out what the hell was happening to begin with.
Basically, dreams are fantastic for visuals and feelings. So I’ll combine all sorts of inspirational goodness to come up with a unique idea that’s full of magic, but coherent in plot. Usually after massive rounds of editing.
Wrap it up
So there you have it — three ways for sourcing writing inspiration when your brain isn’t firing like you want. You’ll notice that I didn’t touch on an all-important tactic: reading. Personally, I can’t read heavily when I’m writing a new story. That’s not the case for everyone, and I still highly recommend reading widely in your genre. I just have to space my TBR list accordingly.