Writing Inspiration – real life hooks, and the benefits of snooping

I wrote a couple of weeks back about my favourite hooks in fiction, but recently the importance of real-life hooks has come home to me, as triggers for my own story ideas.

It’s always the tale part told that fires my imagination – a half heard conversation, a historical story where the full truth has been lost in the past, the view through a window into an unfamiliar house. I’ve become adept at appearing to look straight ahead whilst swivelling my eyes sideways… I love tantalising partial details; they provide hours of fun as I ponder what’s behind them.

And this weekend in Cambridge, restricted views into other people’s lives are on offer for free, thanks to the wonderful Cambridge Open Studios. In theory, this event exists so that talented local artists and craftspeople can showcase their work. They do, and it’s great, but the key point is, you get to see their wares in their homes. The temptation to invent stories around the types of belongings they have, what they choose to paint and the books on their shelves is overwhelming. I wouldn’t want to seem like a freeloader – I promise I’ve bought both paintings and jewellery from open studios in the past – but, a’hem, the snoop factor is also a massive bonus.

Even when the Studios aren’t open, Cambridge’s layout and its architecture make it a great place for tiny glimpses into hidden lives. It’s full of gateways showing narrow sections of courtyard, and passageways leading to secluded dwellings that are almost out of sight. And then there are sweeping gardens that can only be seen close up by riverboat. I often long for a closer look at these places, but really I suspect the magic is in the not knowing. Whilst you still don’t know, you can create anything you want in your mind’s eye. (And, in any case, being content not to know avoids all the complications associated with trespassing…)
The Cambridge Open Studios event takes place annually, each weekend in July.

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