Sunday, March 08, 2009

Inspirations - Christina Hollis

When the words are working, writing is the best job in the world. Who am I kidding – it’s the best job, even when it isn’t! Long before Second Life and other computer wizardry, ‘making things up’ gave everyone the chance to take control over a virtual world. The various miseries of my own childhood were made more bearable by escaping into that secret place everyone has inside their own head. A universe in which we can take control of destiny is a powerful inspiration in itself.

Harvey Danger sang that ‘Happiness Writes White’, and bad times can provide both the need to write and material to use. Mozart produced some of his best work while struggling with debt and surrounded by death and disaster. Genius like that can overcome anything, but for the rest of us putting feelings down in words can be a wonderfully freeing therapy. One of my mentors, the poet Paul Groves, urges everyone to try writing darker. It gives more depth to both poetry and prose. Despite all these gloomy suggestions, never forget the good times!

I’ve kept a journal for as long as I can remember. As it is undated, it’s less judgemental than a diary. An undated journal can be written in faithfully every day, or only added to intermittently – it doesn’t depress the writer with the need to turn over blank pages between the flights of fancy, which is what happens if you use a pre-printed diary. I flick through my journals whenever I’m looking for ideas. Like most writers, I also keep a little notebook and pencil at my bedside for those midnight moments. Recently I’ve expanded these sources of inspiration after going backstage at the theatre. The designer showed me a board she had made up at an early stage of the production. As well as photos and notes, she had added swatches of fabric and paint charts. She believed that a character’s choice of interior design could convey more about them to the audience than the text alone. I’ve adapted this idea for use when writing my next book by adding press cuttings and web site favourites to my own ‘inspiration board’. It used to be said that ‘you are what you eat’. Nowadays, you can tell a lot about people (and therefore fictional characters, too) by the media they study and the internet sites they visit. What’s your favourite window on a character?

Visit Christina’s website on to see how the inspiration has been flowing…


Maureen said...

One of my favorites is how they respond to children and animals when there is no one around to impress.

Christina Hollis said...

That's very true, Maureen. Long before I met my dh, I was engaged to another man. I always wondered why my dog ran away and hid whenever he saw my fiance - until the day I caught the evil creep slyly give my poor dog a kick.
I broke off the engagement right then and there, and never looked back.

RachieG said...

Love the idea of an inspiration board. Did you know that Oprah has one??

I agree with the two ladies above, how the character responds to animals is kind of a big thing...and for some reason, I like knowing if they read a newspaper or not if its relevant. :)

Helen said...

Totally agree you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat animals and children

Have Fun

Estella said...

I have no sympathy for people who mistreat animals. An animal is usually a good judge of character.

Christina Hollis said...

I didn't know about Oprah's inspiration board, RachieG, but I wouldn't mind a look at it. I bet there's some really interesting snippets on there! And yes, there's so much information bound up in media use - whether someone can afford a leisurely flip through the Sundays over coffee, or can only manage a rapid scroll through web pages certainly provides an insight into their character!

kimmyl said...

Totally agree you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat animals and children
Especially with men.