For me, the inspiration for a story can come from various sources or situations. Often ideas arise when I’m doing something else, something which requires some thought, but at the same time is routine enough that my mind wanders. When I’m driving, or taking a walk are two of these most common times. Other sources include dreams, which have the advantage of usually being weird and creative, and the disadvantage of being ephemeral—so much so if I don’t write details down right at the moment of awakening, I typically risk forgetting everything but a vague remembrance of mood. And on an occasion or two, I’ve had the cliché scatological occurrence, and hatched a story’s plot while sitting on the porcelain throne.
The inspiration for my horror/suspense/mystery novella Dead Reckoning was largely from two movies. In late 2007 I rented Wrong Turn 2, a horror sequel concerning West Virginian incestuous cannibals. (As for a review, like many sequels it wasn’t nearly as effective as the original, but it does boast more gratuitous violence and gore, as well as some female nudity. Also, fans of ex-Black Flag frontman/solo performer/spoken word artist Henry Rollins will probably enjoy his acting efforts. I would probably score it two stars out of four, or two and a half if I was feeling generous.) The events of the movie are set in an isolated wilderness, which helps make the characters’ plight all the more believable. Scary movies set in the woods are nothing new, of course—off the top of my head I can think of several, from Deliverance (maybe technically not a horror movie, but with some undeniably intense and disturbing scenes), to the Friday the 13th series to The Blair Witch Project.
The second movie was a small indie movie called The Dead Hate the Living!, released in 2000, which I’d seen several years previously. At one point in the zombie outbreak within the film (slight spoiler alert ahead) some of the movie actor characters get past some zombies by utilizing zombie makeup. (For this movie, review-wise, I was very disappointed. I had high hopes going in, but the end result was lackluster. It was one of those movies I wanted to like more than I did, in that the moviemakers’ enthusiasm for some of the same Italian zombie movies I enjoy so much was obvious, and admirable. It did have some cool gore effects/makeup, and they did use 7’6” actor Matthew McGrory * effectively, years before his turns in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, as well as Big Fish and others.)
When I haven’t written anything for awhile, I tend to get antsy, the literary equivalent of blue balls, if you will. I certainly was anxious at that point in 2007, being in the midst of a long dry spell. Seeing the woods in Wrong Turn 2 and my memory of The Dead Hate the Living! somehow jogged something, and abruptly the bare bones of Dead Reckoning came to me. After ruminating over it for several weeks, helped out by spending a weekend in an isolated hotel in the middle of nowhere (actually western Virginia, near the West Virginia border), I got the story out on paper in a month or two.
So, to sum up, for prospective (or established) writers, it’s a good idea to keep paper and a pen near at all times—you never know when an idea will come about. Take that walk, go for that drive, enjoy a nap, eat more fiber, or view that mediocre horror sequel. Or whatever gets those wheels turning in your head.
* For those interested, Matthew McGrory (who sadly, died back in 2005) was credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the tallest actor, and the person with the biggest feet (excluding Elephantiasis sufferers, and if you want to be grossed out/morbidly fascinated, google that disease, and check out the photos), and correspondingly, the possessor of the biggest toe. (His feet were size 29.5, using the American system.)
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