Monday, February 26, 2007

Where Do You Find Your Ideas?

"If not for heart and imagination, the world of fiction would be a pretty seedy place. It might not even exist at all."
~Stephen King ("On Writing")

Where do you get your story ideas?

When I first started writing, I felt as though I had about 3 (yes, 3) good plots inside my head, and after I used them up, I would never be able to think of another interesting, original story.


I struggled with it. I’d jot down ideas only to realize the next day they were tired and old. Then thing started to change. I‘m not sure why, but occasionally (usually at those weird times, like in the shower or at 3 am or when I’m supposed to be grading papers) a crazy little sliver of an idea would spring up, and I’d grab the closest thing that resembled a piece of paper and write it down.

After a while I retyped them all into one computer file, which is where I still store new ideas. Last time I opened that file, I had about 10 or so. Not a lot, but enough. And finally, the finding of the ideas has become easier.

I get ideas from articles I read in the newspaper or tabloid headlines in the supermarket. I get ideas from songs and TV shows. I get ideas from watching people in Borders and Target. And I get ideas from talking to people. It’s great.

Last Friday, hubby and I went out with another couple we work with--great new bar for happy hour, great new restaurant for dinner. And we all told stories. The terrific thing is that our friends are about 20 years older than we are, and former hippies, so they have the best stories in the world. I’m serious. My mind was cataloging great characters and great situations all night long.

For example: they moved to a Idaho town (population 500: 498 cowboys and hunters, and our friends) right after they got married, since he was going to school out there. One day the woman, who’s a liberal NYC girl, activist, pacifist, and vegetarian, goes downstairs in her apartment complex to do the laundry, and there’s an entire gutted deer hanging there, in the laundry room.

How great a moment is that?! Can’t you just picture working that scene into a story?? Talk about multiple conflicts, and a terrific opportunity for character development, and a perfect way to suggest the setting of the town.

So I’m a little less worried these days that the Idea Well will run dry, that it’s a finite collection of plots and characters out there for me to work with. Now, I can’t wait to go to the mall, or the grocery store, or the gas station. Who knows where I’ll find my next hero or heroine?

What about you? Where do you find inspiration for your writing??


Judy said...

I'm like you... there are ideas everywhere. Lizzie came about as a visit to a castle in Scotland. Fiona came about while I was looking at an old house Bob and I passed while I was traveling. I get ideas watching TV, watching people, people talking,... everywhere. Now.. my problem comes from putting the ideas into written form. When I have the story all worked out in my head, I get bored with it. Sigh.

kat said...

Hi! Stumbled upon your blog through Marianne Atkins.

I heard that this question is one of the most dreaded one by writers, because sometimes it's so hard to just give a concrete answer. I was looking at Neil Gaiman's site and found his essay about the same topic. Thanks for this!