Our guest blog today is from Lachesis author Greg Ballan. Greg writes science fiction/suspense for Lachesis. His Hybrid series (Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vengeance) follows a private investigator with abilities that are decidedly super-human and “other-worldly”.
Our ongoing topic is: what inspires your writing? Over to you Greg . . .
Wow, this is a great topic! It’s fascinating to see how different authors find inspiration, or what they do to get inspired. Inspiration, for me, is a specter that pays a call at 2:30 in the morning, waking me from a dead sleep. It’s a sense of idea and plot so wonderfully deep and concise that it can only come to me early in the morning while my mind isn’t burdened with the thoughts of work, chaos at home or struggling to develop the plot line for my latest WIP. I used to wake up . . . kick around the inspiration, be amazed at my “Brilliance” and then fall back to sleep convinced I’d remember this stroke of pure genius. When I awoke the next morning the idea was gone as if the same phantom that brought me such inspiration came by and stole it away again. Many a great idea came and went, I’d wake up each morning and my mind would be a blank slate! Now I keep a journal by my nightstand to capture the inspirations and put my whims to paper. THEN I go back to sleep. Several early morning inspirations made their way into Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vengeance and my upcoming Lost Sons projects.
I’ve had moments when the mental roadblocks and obstacles appear insurmountable. These are the times when I need to seek inspiration. During these difficult times inspiration is found through intense physical activity. My activity of choice is MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) or boxing. I’ll tape up my hands, put on my gloves and go several rounds on the heavy bag working a scene over and over in my head while throwing punches and kicks into a defenseless mass of ebony canvas. After a good thirty-minute sweat I’ve usually resolved the problem or at least come closer to a workable solution. If I can’t work around a problem I’ll usually punch and kick my way through it. When I wrote Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vengeance, I choreographed all of the fight scenes on the heavy bag. Each combat scene was played out to make sure the sequences were realistic. Seeing the sequence in my mind and acting it out against an object really helped me describe the intricacies of each strike and counterstrike and made the actions come alive on paper. Truth moment . . . in Hybrid, my main character, Erik Knight, executes a series of offensive moves ending with a perfect, airborne, spinning back kick while in heated hand to hand combat. As I worked through the series of movements leading up to that kick, I leapt, spun in the air and threw my leg around preparing to kick the heavy bag. My approach was too far back; I missed and fell flat on my backside landing on the hard cement floor. After recovering what was left of my dignity and making sure I didn’t need an ambulance, I decided, at 45 years of age, I’d allow myself to just visualize that one move. Those kicks were much easier to do twenty-five years ago.
I’ve also found inspiration in the forest, walking through the dense woodlands. The entire story of Hybrid was created as I hiked through the Hopedale Town Forest (Hopedale, MA). Imagination is a powerful tool, especially for a Science Fiction/Suspense writer. Being alone in the woods as the Sun sets, miles away from the nearest road, gets one’s imagination to wandering in dark places. The result of that hike in the dark was my first novel. I get a twisted sense of pride when one of my neighbors tells me they won’t run the trails in the Hopedale Forest anymore because they’re convinced one of my alien creatures is lurking out there, waiting to pounce!
When I’m working on a project, there are several things I need to have on hand to keep the internal creative/inspirational juices flowing. The most important is my Honey Dew iced coffee and a blueberry muffin. There’s an indescribable comfort of sipping on my favorite drink and nibbling on my favorite comfort food as I’m typing away, putting an idea into words.
I’m also a stickler for dialogue . . . I enjoy creating a picture through conversation. Sometimes it’s better to hear (read) a character’s own words regarding a situation or conflict instead of an author’s description. My favorite author, the late David Eddings, was a master of dialogue. His characters leap off the pages and their conversations can be intense or humorous, conveying more meaningful plot information than any description. Conversation has to be real; the words said have to be believable. I’ve found a great method for realistic dialogue is actually speaking both sides of the conversation aloud, adding the proper tone and emotional aspect to the conversation I’m creating. I quickly discover what lines are good and constructive and which lines need to be reworked or removed. If the conversation sounds real when spoken aloud, then there’s a much better chance a reader will follow the dialogue and mentally process every vocal cadence I’m trying to impart. I’ve often used this technique while driving to work to pass the time, and work through scenes that require intense verbal interaction. What I didn’t realize is that when you drive along the highway and have an animated conversation with yourself, people driving near you tend to notice. I’m often given a wide berth on the road.
I’ve learned a great deal about what inspires my fellow authors and I’m going to adopt Kim Baccellia’s and Alexis D. Craig’s musical inspirations during my next work session and see what amazing things happen! Maybe one of my fellow authors will pick up some boxing gloves, go for a long hike in a dark forest, or just grab a cup of iced coffee and a warm blueberry muffin as they search for their inner muse.
Greg Ballan is a graduate of Northeastern University holding Bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and Management. He lives in Hopedale, MA with his patient, tolerant and sometimes bewildered wife, Teresa and his three children: Tom, Rachel and Christie. Greg enjoys several outdoor activities such as hiking, archery and shooting. When he’s not working his full time job as a Financial Analyst or getting lost in some unknown woodlands, he’s crunched over his laptop putting his warped imagination into words or penning a column about politics, hunting humor or his latest tale about avoiding house work and yard work.
To read some of Greg’s musings visit his writing page on facebook, for several short stories and pithy takes on yard work and homelife.