One of the first things people ask when they know you are a writer is; Where do you get your ideas? The answer to this question usually has more than just one response and today I’m going to let you in on the secret of where to find these elusive ideas.
I’m sure most people have heard of the dream scenario? Where the author replies that the story came to them in a dream. Sometimes this does happen, but a writer can’t stick around waiting for that one all important dream that might never happen.
I don’t know about you but often my dreams are more snippets of a conversation than a complete scene for a story. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be used for ideas just that they need filtering first. With dreams the trick is to write it down as soon as you wake up with as much detail as you can remember, date it and store it for future reference.
The media is full of story ideas that can be used to your advantage if you change a few elements. Things like gender, age and the morals of your character or even the ending of the story can be changed to give you a fresh idea that you can run with. T.V, magazines and newspapers are all valuable sources for this idea fishing process.
Pictures, paintings and artwork can also be used to spark ideas. Imagine your character in that setting, why are they there? How did they get there? What will they do/ what will happen next? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination – so remember that we aren’t looking for a first draft, we’re after ideas – write down anything that pops into your mind no matter how silly. Filtering through the ideas will come later.
You can also listen to music, read poetry or try your hand at writing a song or poem. Once again the trick isn’t to use this exercise to write the best poem or song that you can but to get some words on the page and have a bit of fun. Use this exercise as a chance to daydream, create a word-pool from your poem or song.
Word-pools are my favourite exercise for finding ideas. This is because you can use them with any other exercise and come up with something different from what you had. If you are struggling to start your word-pool all you need to do is grab your nearest book, turn to a random page, close your eyes and pick a word. You can do that as many times as you like to get yourself started. Remember that you want to be creative and the more times you pick from the book the less time you spend in your search for real ideas.
Once you have your ideas what do you do with them? I would suggest keeping your ideas in one place whether that is an idea journal, folder, draw, whatever you feel comfortable with. Even if you do use the idea for a story or article you should still store with your other ideas, although you could mark it as being used and what you used it for. This is a great resource when you are stuck on a scene or short on inspiration and has often helped me kick start my writing when the motivation was lacking.
Remember that writing is a creative art – anything can spark it. The trick is to bring the spark to life and keep it burning.