Thanks for coming out to another Tuesday at 2 EST live Facebook Page Video chat and writing workshop. As promised, I’m putting my thoughts on paper for you, too. Hope these hints prove helpful in your search for great ideas!
1 DOES SOMETHING INTRIGUE OR AMUSE YOU IN YOUR DAILY ROUTINE? SOMETHING MAKES YOU WONDER “WHAT IF?” TAKE THAT QUESTION AND RUN WITH IT!
Extraordinary stories can come from an ordinary, routine event. I was playing with my Wii Fit machine, a weekly morning routine for me, when it occurred to me that the Wii Fit instructor’s mouth wasn’t in synchronization with what he was saying, and that he didn’t seem lifelike enough at all, which was too bad. I might pay more attention and work harder if he seemed more real. Bingo. That idea sparked a “what if.” What if a woman about my age found a genie in her Wii Fit machine? What if he offered her three wishes? With that, Strangely, Incredibly Good was born.
2 SCAN THE LOCAL HEADLINES DAILY
Read your local paper every day, and make notes about stories that intrigue you. Don’t bother with the big international stories – you’re probably going to have to fight other writers with bigger publishers and budgets for those ones. It’s the seemingly smaller stories, that come out of small towns – those are where great novels can be found.
Any story you find that’s been in the news can be fictionalized and made your own. The Ticket was inspired by a true story out of Toronto, Canada that went viral. I changed names and made the story quite different from the original, but the idea came from that original story in the news. There is no copyright on ideas.
3 LISTEN TO YOUR GRANDPARENTS
If you’re lucky enough to have living grandparents, or older relatives, go sit with them for an hour or two. I know they’ll have more than one fascinating story that you can run with. You don’t have to write about the 1920’s or 30’s. You can take the feelings and memories that they give you, and work with that. Seniors have a lot more time to sit and reflect on what’s happened to them. They are a treasure chest of stories.
4 LISTEN TO A CHILD
Children’s imaginations know no bounds. If you just listen to them for an hour, you’ll hear the most wonderful ideas. They may be quite fanciful, and possibly, you want to write a realistic novel – say, a crime novel. Children wouldn’t talk about murder plots, right? You never know what they might say to you. They’re uncensored. Just listen to what they come up with. They may at least spark the start of your novel. Don’t forget to write down everything they say. It’s easy to forget what children say, because sometimes it seems so simple, we think we’ll remember it. It’s not that simple. It’s usually rather insightful. Don’t be fooled by their size and speech patterns!
NOW, TO DEVELOP YOUR STORY, WRITE ABOUT YOUR “WHAT IF?” IN LONG HAND EVERY MORNING UNTIL YOU START TO COME UP WITH:
A STRONG HERO
A GOAL OR PROBLEM THAT’S CHALLENGING TO ACHIEVE OR SOLVE;
A STORY THAT EXCITES YOU ENOUGH FOR YOU TO WRITE IT EVERY DAY.
I am convinced that imagination is better sparked by whatever neurons link the writing hand to the brain. Every single novel idea I’ve come up with has not been typed out on keyboard. I wrote the idea down in handwriting in a journal, and then I started brainstorming around that “What If?” in handwriting, for several pages every morning for a few weeks. They are what author Julia Cameron calls Morning Pages, and they have always helped me start my novels. Sometimes, I leave the initial idea alone. It doesn’t quite work. It still sits in a journal somewhere in my messy office. More often than not, though, I take an idea from one sentence in those morning pages, and develop it by answering the “what if,” in as much detail as possible. From one “what if,” come more questions, of course, but I try to answer those, and when I have a strong hero or heroine and I think their goal is going to give them a good long struggle, I start typing out the first chapter on my desktop computer.
Sometimes the handwritten stage lasts a week or more. Sometimes, it’s a month or more. I’m always doing marketing and other writing related work in the afternoons, but I spend a few hours every morning handwriting my thoughts about my idea, even if I think it’s not working and it sounds crazy.
Eventually, my idea has developed into strong characters with strong motivations, and I’m on my way.
You can be too! Go ahead, give it a try.
Let me know how you do.