Alien Worlds & Traveling Abroad
|Art by Michael Lam 2013|
—Tying into that, a lot of the things I hear after someone reads something I wrote is "how did you come up with that?" or "how did you build the world for the story?"
I'd like to think of myself as a creative person, but of course, creativity does not come out of a void. One of the things I find that helps is relying on google images for inspiration. Try googling something like "weirdest animals" or "strangest fish" and you'll be presented with a wealth of alien-looking animals and landscapes to blend with your imagination. I have a degree in biology, but though that serves as a basis for already knowing some of the weird stuff out there, with the internet one is hardly at a disadvantage when it comes to access to things of this nature.
Another thing to do for inspiration, if one can, is travel. In the USA we have a wealth of different cultures and environments (deserts, rainforest—yes, there are both tropical and temperate rain-forests in the USA and its territories) to travel to for inspiration without leaving the country. If one can, though, I've found travel abroad to be the best for this (you guys in Europe and Asia are pretty lucky being so close to other cultures and environments).
Wikimedia Commons- by 663Highland
CS Friedman traveled to an active volcano before writing the third novel in her Coldfire trilogy, and I'm sure the experience lent to the powerful descriptions in that book. When writing, there is no better way to imagine what your hero or heroine might be experiencing on an alien world than to travel to one yourself. I recently traveled to the Carribean for the first time, and already I've got a few ideas both for stories, and how to make some things I've already thought of better.
If it's true that we can't imagine anything that we haven't either experienced in some way or that isn't a mishmash of things we've experienced, then having as many experiences as possible can only improve our creativity and connection to the stories we read and write.