Inspiration for the lesson

This is one of those Writelike lessons where we have lots of standalone activities with a simple checkpoint at the end.


You'll be asked to come up with lots of different variations on goals and motivations, and that means having to invent a lot of content.

What's the easiest way to do that?


You know yourself and your life and the people in it, so one option is to draw content and inspiration from that.

Just be mindful of how you talk about yourself and others, and what you share.


The second option is to imagine a character and scenario that are interesting enough that you want to learn more about them yourself.

  • If you want a starting point, try looking for an inspiration image online—anything that shows somebody in an interesting situation.
  • If you love genre fiction, you could imagine a sci fi, romance, fantasy, horror, or crime scenario and build from there.
  • If you're more interested in realism, you could start with something you've read about or seen in the media, and build on that.

For our worked examples in this lesson, we did a combination of inspiration image and media research.

For our first worked example, we started with this picture of a woman loading a swan into a car:

Woman places swan in car

We liked that because it clearly had a goal: get the swan into the car. But why? What was the motivation? Had the swan escaped? Had she been showing it at the fair? Was she taking it to the vet?

We started googling why someone might transport a swan when we came across an amazing story about a woman in New York who found a sick swan and carried it into the city to a clinic.

Ariel Cordova-Rojas with swan

That was such a great image—particularly trying to get a swan on public transport—that we decided to write about that.

That idea happened to connect to another New York wildlife story, which was about a Black birdwatcher who was got into an argument with a woman in Central Park who refused to leash her dog

Christian Cooper sits by pond

These elements combined to become "a Black birder finds a sick goose and wants to take it to a clinic in the city".

The thing is: we are not Black Americans, we're not birders, we're not in New York, and we've never seen or carried a sick goose—so we had to follow our nose through the reading until we felt like we had enough detail to make a believable character and situation.

Through doing this we learned a lot about the geography of New York City, local bird species, the parks system, wildlife nonprofits, Black birder communities, and avian medicine.

Anyone who actually knows anything about these topics would probably laugh or roll their eyes at what we've written; but for anyone else there's probably just enough detail there to be believable.

For the second worked example, we happened to be following news about massive wildfires on the west coast of the US, and we started to wonder about the types of people who join wildfire crews, what training they do, and how they work on a fire.

We started watching YouTube videos about hotshots and smokejumpers, and finally came across an article about growing numbers of women in wildfire crews.

Portrait of female firefighter carrying chainsaw in forest from National Geographic

That gave us a character and broad scenario: a young woman wants to quit her office job and join a wildfire crew. 

While the goose story is a single episode, the wildfire scenario offered all sorts of possible moments and situations from changing jobs, to training, to different jobs during a fire, plus the theme of being a woman in a conventionally male-dominated work environment.

Again, we knew nothing about wildfires or the kind of people who do firefighting, so we had to go off research and imagination and hope that we could create something credible.

That's how we came up with the worked examples in this lesson.

Before you proceed, take a little while to think about a situation and character you want to spend some time with.

If you're stuck for a starting point, browse the web until something catches your eye—but don't spend too long trying to find the perfect idea!

You'll find anything that grabs your attention even more interesting as you dive into it.