Hi There,

I hope your writing is going very well. This fortnight, your responses to my last newsletter, ‘CREATIVE STEALING’.

‘Hi Philip,

Inspiring newsletter, thank you.

I like STEALING. I tend to do this with dead authors, using their literary works as inspiration. For example, I’m currently adapting Hamlet to a monastic setting in 12th century England – using the narrative and the themes explored by Shakespeare but with gender role swapping and a different third act. I think public domain works can literally be stolen, in the name of ‘inspired by’ so and so. I could be wrong…

Best wishes,

Charlie Bury

‘Regards to story prompts, no matter what village, town or city I’m in, I always try to go on a ghost tour. Not JUST because I like writing horror, but there are also some great (and gruesome!) insights into history and a mixture of sad, tragic, romantic and scary stories that are idiosyncratic to the place they’re set in.

There’s some very funny ones too including a randy poltergeist in a pub and a ghost who sprays victims with perfume ‘cos they stink!

I also always have my camera-phone armed and ready for any plaques, monuments, or even trees that have nuggets of inspiration – my last short film was inspired and shot in front of 1500 yew tree outside of Guildford. It was a horror, of course!

Andrew Ionides.’

Hi Philip and thanks for another thought-provoking newsletter. You asked us to share creative prompts, so here’s mine:

I admit that I don’t have problems finding ideas. A lot of creative musing goes on in the middle of the night when I ought to be sleeping. However, I regularly look at real events/people/situations and ask myself “what if?”. Eg. What if the guy who gave her a big break in her job was actually the father she never knew? What if he didn’t know but one of them finds out? How would that person react? A million possibilities.

Next up, I look at things I can’t do (I have RA) or jobs/lifestyles that interest me and invent the characters who are capable of doing them and the many obstacles they might have to have to overcome to achieve their goals. Invariably social issues force their way into these stories in a major or minor way because they’re close to my heart.

Lastly, history. The physical and societal constraints of real people in the past lead to fascinating stories. The characters don’t have to be real people – they just have to be right for the period and the circumstances. Life was tougher in the past. Adversity makes a good story.

These are all off the top of my head. I suspect I have other inspiration sources too – but I’m sure lots of other writers will be telling you plenty of similar ones.

Terri Martin.’

‘I definitely love people watching and being on trains is amazing for listening into conversations.

I was thinking interviewing people is a good one too? As long as you set it up fairly and they are totally willing.

I remember we had a writer come in on my MA and he said scientists are usually really enthused to talk about their work with writers.

Thanks again!

Emma Bentley

‘Your newsletter inspired me to think about some of the most significant pieces I’ve written and where the inspiration came from so I’ve attached my response.  Won’t be remotely offended if you don’t include it but it was an interesting document to write.

It also made me think about whether or not we have permission to write about issues that aren’t our own experience.  Personally, I think we’re in danger of taking this a bit too far and I’d be interested to hear what other people think.  I’ve just worked on a fantastic project and over half of the creative team are women with experience of homelessness.  Our goal was to offer paid employment to the women we worked with and include as many people as possible – with or without experience of the arts.  At the beginning of the project we repeatedly came up against theatres saying I couldn’t write this play as I didn’t have experience of homelessness.  Which, frankly, is making wild assumptions purely on how I look which I take exception to.  But more importantly without the support of Arts and Homelessness International who had the foresight to see beyond who I was, we now have a project that has real potential to tour next year and change women’s lives.  The group we worked with in London were genuinely inspirational.  One woman is now actively involved in the arts and the group as a whole are still in touch on WhatsApp and several of them have become friends.

As you’ll see from my own inspiration for telling stories, I wrote a radio drama inspired by my experience of epilepsy.  The play was very well received but I did have some abusive messages about my so called ‘right’ to write about the subject.  Should we really have to divulge all our personal experiences in order to tell the stories that matter?  In fact the BBC did mention my own experiences when they introduced the play.  I’d chosen not to tell my sons about my epilepsy as my condition is very mild so then found myself having to divulge information about my condition that I’d previously chosen to keep to myself.

Louise Monaghan.’

A huge thank you to Charlie, Andrew, Terri, Emma and Louise for sharing these fascinating idea-creation prompts.

The next newsletter will be on Friday June 16th,

Best wishes



Twitter: @PhilipShelley1

June 2nd 2023