I am honoured to welcome Vanessa Couchman to my AUTHOR COUNTDOWN today. A freelance writer and author based in France, she runs a copywriting business, and is often asked the question: Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration is the magic key that opens the door to the world of imagination. It’s no good having all the technical writing skills at your fingertips if the “I” word is absent. And sitting in front of a blank screen or a virgin sheet of paper isn’t likely to conjure it up.


Much of my fiction is historical. I write the occasional short story set in the present day, but I am increasingly drawn to writing stories set in the past. I am fascinated by how people lived, what they felt and thought and how they experienced their culture and society. So I find much of my inspiration in real historical events or people. Here are seven other things you can do to get the juices going:

  • Open a book at random, choose the first word on that page and write a story inspired by it. If it happens to be “disestablishmentarianism” you might have to have another go.
  • Look through the newspaper headlines for interesting stories (“Man bites dog”) or watch the TV news.
  • Do some people watching at your local café, train station, supermarket. I find eavesdropping a very satisfactory way of getting ideas.
  • A number of internet sites publish daily writing prompts.
  • Go to an art gallery or look up some famous pictures on the internet. Edgar Dégas’ painting “Miss LaLa at the Cirque Fernando” inspired a short story. Every time I go to London I visit the National Gallery where the painting hangs.
  • Get out for a walk and take the time to use all your senses to notice what’s around you.
  • Spend five minutes doing some free writing and write down whatever comes to mind. There might be a nugget or two in there.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Vanessa Couchman writes for magazines and websites about French life and writing. Her short stories have been placed and shortlisted in creative writing competitions. The House at Zaronza is her debut novel set in early 20th-century Corsica and at the Western Front during World War I.

Vanessa says: “We stayed at a B&B on Corsica a few years ago. The owners had found some old love letters hidden in a blocked-up niche in the attic. They told us what they knew of the story and I was so gripped by it that I developed it into my novel, embroidering it quite a lot along the way.

I have an idea for another novel set on Corsica, inspired by a few lines in a very old chronicle of the island. I won’t give away more than that, but, as soon as I read that snippet I had that light-bulb moment.

Front cover final

Writing site:

Amazon author page:

The House at Zaronza: 

Facebook page:

Twitter: @Vanessainfrance

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  1. nessafrance says:

    Reblogged this on Vanessa Couchman, author and commented:
    I’m posting on Jane Bwye’s blog today about where you can find inspiration as a writer.

  2. Reblogged this on Tales from the Notepad and commented:
    Finding inspiration… Always a good thing! Great tips here, and just as useful for fiction and poetry. My favourites have got to be free-writing, or using art as inspiration – mooch around a gallery, and let the atmosphere get under your skin. And who says you have to stick to one painting per poem?

    • jbwye says:

      Absolutely! I also find inspiration by letting my imagination dream….

    • nessafrance says:

      I’m a great art lover – inspired by a teacher at school many moons ago. So I have written a number of short stories based on paintings. Sculpture is equally valid – any form of artistic expression, in fact. Thanks for reblogging!

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