Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: How and Where to Find Story Ideas

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! OK, here's the thing: many writers have no trouble thinking of ideas for their books and stories. They come up with plotlines on a regular basis; they create other worlds and original characters that clamor for attention.

I am not one of these writers.

When I first began writing novels, I had ideas for 3 plotlines. That was it. I had no idea how prolific writers could simply come up with new stories year after year. In the last few years, I’ve gotten a lot better at developing my creativity, though I still will never be the kind of writer who has 10+ stories floating around in her mind at any given time.

Here are some ways and places I’ve used to get ideas for stories...

1. Writing prompts – I don’t use them as often as I should, but there are a plethora out there. Google "writing prompts," and you'll find a number to get your creative juices flowing.

2. Driving long distances – I’ve come up with the majority of my novel ideas while I’m driving, usually through lonely countryside where I can’t tune in a radio station. Maybe the silence and mindlessness let my subconscious work. I don’t know.

3. Reading the newspaper – There are so many crazy headlines in the paper every single day (“Man Throws Terminally Ill Wife Off Balcony,” “Naked Felon Found Floating in River,” “Pet Terrier saves Family of Thirteen from Certain Death”). Truth is stranger than fiction, indeed – so use it to create a crazy story of your own!

4. Listening to the radio – Again, I love hearing news stories that make you say “huh?” (“Orthodox Teens Caught Drinking in Short Skirts”) but I also love listening to song lyrics and thinking of ways they could translate into stories.

5. Exercising – I run and walk a lot, so again I think the mindlessness, and probably the rhythm of the physical activity, frees up my creative side to work. I do the “what if” game a lot when I run.

6. Dreaming – Yes, I’ve gotten story ideas from weird dreams as well. Usually it’s just a character’s face, or emotional reaction, or a fragmented sentence that sticks with me, but I always write those things down when I wake up. That’s why I tell aspiring writers to keep a pen and paper beside their beds.

OK, now share: where do your ideas come from??


ollie1976 said...

I was actually struggling with this yesterday-I ended up just doing some freewriting for about 10-15 minutes.

Marianne Arkins said...

Pregnancy Cravings, Now That We've Found You, Camilla's Critters, Isn't She Liv Leigh, A Christmas Curse and Tickle Fights & Barbeques are all the result of writing prompts.

Playing House and Magic were both from dreams.

A Change of Heart and Return to Stiller Creek were a result of "I could write a secret baby cowboy story".

Miles From You and Don't Fence Me In were because I wanted to write about different war years in the past and started out as settings only... no idea of plot, characters or conflict.

I love, Love, LOVE me a good writing prompt.

And that was all probably more than you wanted to know! LOL...

Mel said...

With my last book I got the idea from watching court TV. It came from the show Psychic Detectives. But most times I just hear a character say something, I write it down, and then throw in a plot when I need it.

I don't recommend my way.

Jim Melvin said...

For me, ideas are the least of my worries. They burst out of me like lava from a volcano. I'm not saying this to brag. After all, the world is full of people with great ideas who never accomplish anything.