What unusual things inspire your characters?
Of course stories or even simply mechanical niches can inspire characters, but what alternative sources of inspiration do you use when making a new character or coming up with story ideas?
For me, I turn to music. Heavy metal or hard rock music has inspired many of my characters, or at least facets of my characters, and various circumstances those characters might find themselves in, as well as giving soundtracks that can help me feel the dramatic flow and energy of a combat scene.
It works so well for me partly because of the emotional potency of the genres I consume, and it often helps me get a better grasp on the characters I’m playing or writing, as well as inspiring new ones.
Extra detail (perhaps too much)
In my experience, more hardcore music genres often lend themselves well to narrative adaptations because they tend to either represent someone in a situation (POV performance) or to chronicle a situation from an outside perspective (much more rarely, since metal is typically a very personal art form), in which case it takes little adaptation to turn it into a story. Oftentimes, because of the nature of the music, it tends towards less vapid stories and topics, typically carrying more pain in the lyrics, and pain and struggle is what makes characters and stories interesting.
Sometimes it inspires a character’s struggle or arc (RED “Still Alive” [I’m still alive/what’s it all for?]), sometimes a character’s nature or personal compass (Manowar “Die with Honor”), something that’s dogging a character (Five Finger Death Punch “Blue on Black,” “Gone Away”), or even a full or partial story (Demon Hunter “Last One Alive” [Did anyone survive?/I’d swear I heard a voice beyond this rise]; Impending Doom “I must end” [Wandering in a desolate wasteland/I thought I knew something, but I know nothing at all]).
The best for me are ones that draw up vivid mental images, or that have particularly vivid metaphors that can instead be taken literally (usually with some tweaking).
A specific example of this is a vigilante-type character I came up with, for whom the songs “Monster” by Skillet and “Cradle to the Grave” by 5FDP (been called a monster, called a demon, called a fake/I’ll always be a living nightmare from the cradle to the grave) set me down the trail of thought in connection with a couple other inspirations to give me a more fully-fleshed out character, showing the duality of his horror at what he’s become juxtaposed with his simultaneous embracing of his new… “moral state” we’ll call it.
I also take a lot of more-direct inspiration for story from history, particularly WWII. Stories like the Bismarck (see the Malevolence), Taffy 3 and the Battle off Samar, Bataan, numerous Pacific naval battles, partisans, the Warsaw Uprising, and so many others lend themselves well to translation into Star Wars, either directly or through clever adaptation (or free association, like how “Bataan” and “Mimban” sound very similar).
Of course, this pulls me back to music since I am an avid Sabaton fan.
So that’s me.
What about you guys? What are some of the things that inspire you?