A non-writing friend asked me what inspires my stories, or inspires me to write.
(I admit, I felt all AUTHOR for a moment and could imagine myself being asked this while standing in front of a group of fans at a reading. Please forgive me my momentary plunge into fantasy!)
My answer came quickly; music, photos, great books, dreams and watching people interact.
She smiled and looked at me with humor in her eyes - a look I know well now. I get a little, ummm, excited sometimes when I get going and it's highly amusing to some of my friends that, after never talking about it - I can't stop talking about it. (That's what I chose to believe at least).
Music - although music inspires me WHEN I'm writing, it's often not the inspiration on what to write about. It absolutely sets the mood and gets my mind in the right place. You can check out my playlists for NORMAL and BITE ME on the sidebar of their homepages. This is music that I either write to or reminds me of my story - something that makes me want to write.
Photos - This is kind of a big one for me. I love photography. Something about how people see the same world so differently becomes clear in a photograph. My parents used to laugh when I used to take my oldest daughter to have her photo taken every month as a baby, because I fancy myself an amateur photographer and she was already the most photographed baby - ever. To me though, having her photo taken by another photographer allowed me to see her in a different way.
This is probably the main reason that I do castings for my books. Sometimes it is an actual celebrity in my head, sometime it's just how they look in one particular picture or a look they have on their face that makes me think of that character. However. I find a lot of inspiration from photography - settings, houses (UNTITLED actually has a whole architecturally rendered floorplan of the MC's house), faces, smiles - even the mood of a photo.
The rest is fairly self explanatory - seeing how people interact, listening to their speech... all inspire scenes and moods in my books.
The single most important one though - are my dreams. Almost every single one of my SNIs started out as a vivid, movie-like dream. Something that grabbed me and didn't let go.