Where Do Ideas Come From?
by Adam Huddleston
Ah. The ultimate question for all writers. The granddaddy of them all. Where do ideas come from? Where can I go to get inspired to write? How do the literary greats get their works started?
The answer, I suppose, differs from writer to writer. In fact, I’m sure there are as many answers to that desperate question as there are writers in the world. Where do I get my ideas from? I’ll tell you. But remember, this is coming from an author with only a handful (and small at that) of published works.
I get my ideas from what I see around me. For example, although I eat better now, I used to spend quite a lot of time in fast food drive-thrus. A few of my story starters arise from there. Also, the eight-hour drive to visit family in east Texas (when the kiddos are actually quiet, and I can think straight) provides many opportunities to create story ideas. I have two or three tales that center on interstate travel. One about a ghost that haunts a specific exit ramp, the other about a man hired to clean off roadkill.
Other ideas come from things I hear, whether while at work or from my family at home. My next few blogs will center on those.
WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW, SORT OF
I am currently working on a short story for an upcoming collection. The idea was born out of several life experiences. It contains an old western movie I love, my background in horse shows, and a heartbreaking decision I made. However, I’ve never participated in the events my characters go through in the story. It will take some research to make this tale come alive.
One of writing’s famous rules is “Write what you know.” When looking for ideas, use your own experience. What do you like to do? What scenarios can you brainstorm happening from your work, your hobbies, or your family? See what combinations you can put together.
But what if you want to write about Victorian England and all you know is life on a Texas ranch? Should you abandon the idea? No. It called research. You may need a little or a lot depending on the topic, but just because you aren’t familiar with it doesn’t mean you give up. If it’s something you’re passionate about, you can write it.
The rule should read: “Write what you know. Learn what you don’t.”
POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE
By Nandy Eke
Stephen King once said he is asked constantly where his ideas come from. His answer is he doesn’t know. He mentions “the guys in the basement,” which is his description of a muse. He says he plays a lot of “what if” games that lead to the stories.
I agree with this to some extent. I play the “what if” game myself, and I get some interesting answers. But the stories I’ve written that I like most are the ones I can tell you exactly when the idea gelled.
Some of that has to do with what’s happening around me when the idea starts to grow. I’ve seen the moon look like a giant eye in the sky. I pass an old abandoned gas station every morning on my way to the day job, and there’s always a car or pick-up sitting in the old parking lot. I don’t know why it’s there. The person inside wears a big cowboy hat and is always alone.
One morning I went to the office and saw a pair of ladies pumps sitting in the alley. The shoes were white fabric with big flowers printed all over them. They were standing next to my office driveway as if some lady had just stepped out of them.
There’s a famous quote that says we pass 5,000 story ideas every day. An author will see 20 of them. Tell me in the comments below what story ideas you noticed today.
Congratulations. You have just received a postcard from the muse.
tag words: Stephen King, pump shoes, pick-up trucks, nandyekle.com, Nandy Ekle, wordsmithsix.com
Active Writing cultivates new Material.
Rory C. Keel
As a writer do you struggle to find new material to write?
For me, ideas often come to mind when I am actively writing as if one idea sprouts from another. As my story moves along, writing one sentence after the next, a scene will unfold unlocking a previous thought. Occasionally a secret door in that scene will open showing me an object or a thought that feels out of place and doesn’t fit. These are what I call my story seeds, seeds for another project.
Story seeds are small bits of information that emerge in your thoughts. They can be simple objects like a single red sock hung on a clothesline: why is it blowing in the wind as if forgotten, or was it intentional and a signal for someone? Maybe an animal such as a small brown dog runs through your thoughts while you write. Why is he alone? Does he have a master? These story seeds may be a specific place you’ve never been before or a mysterious person that suddenly emerges in your mind and then vanishes. When these items appear, I quickly record them to use in a future piece.
Make a List
Make a list in a small pocket notebook or journal of story seeds when they happen. When you struggle to find something to write, use the list to spark a story. Ask when, where, who, what and how about each item on the list to generate the next story.
Make your list!
Rory C. Keel
IDEA, WHERE ART THOU?
I love going to writing workshops, but I do not like it when the instructor asks the class to write something for five to ten minutes. I end up staring at the page, my mind blank. With time running out, I finally jot down something that vaguely deals with the assignment. Then I sit back and listen while another participant reads a perfect piece of prose. It drives me crazy. Why can’t I come up with great ideas that quickly? They usually occur hours later.
Over the years, I’ve learned this is just how I am wired. I have to think about a subject first before an idea arises in my mind. And then it slowly comes together. I wrote a short story earlier this year on a topic I never thought I could do. The idea came a few hours after I learned about it.
So, I’m not the fastest idea person in the world. I am getting better; this blog has helped. But knowing ideas will happen if I just give them a chance to grow in my mind is amazingly freeing. Remember, not everyone thinks the same. You just be you.
POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE
Ideas From the Setting
By Nandy Eke
Look closely at the picture. What story ideas do you see?
What about this picture?
Horror Story Settings
by Adam Huddleston
Since today is Halloween, and I am a horror story fan at heart, I wanted to share I list of popular settings for scary tales. I know most are cliché, but if you are interested in writing a horror story, some of these locations are probably going to end up in your work. In no particular order:
Rural location (cabin, farmhouse, etc.)
Open Water (oceans, seas, lakes, etc.)
Hope these help! Happy writing!
FICTION DEPENDS FOR ITS LIFE ON PLACE
A few quotes about setting…
“Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else. Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, what happened? Who’s here? Who’s coming?” EUDORA WELTY
“I think I have a God complex, and I like moving mountains and writing stories that affect entire worlds, and it’s a bit hard to do that in a contemporary setting because you have reality intruding. Whereas, when you set your own reality, you can makeup your own rules and do whatever you like.” JENNIFER FALLON
“I never think of an entire book at once. I always just start with a very small idea. In HOLES I just began with the setting; a juvenile correctional facility located in the Texas desert. Then I slowly make up the story, and rewrite it several times, and each time I rewrite it, I get new ideas, and change the old ideas around.” LOUIS SACHAR
“I always strive to create a setting that leaves the readers’ imagination room to roam. That way, every reader sees the story through their own eyes.” P.S. BARTLETT
“I think setting as almost a character of its own, influencing the other characters in ways they’re not even aware of. So much of the success of a good ghost story rides on creating a creepy atmosphere; details of the landscape itself can help create a sense of dread.” JENNIFER MCMAHON
OUT ON THE MOORS
A good setting should set a mood. There’s a feel to it. Here’s an example from Michael Jecks’ medieval mystery novel, A Moorland Hanging:
Above them, huge gray clouds, their edges tinged with white, moved across the sky with alarming speed. The land, which had looked so calm and soft, green and purple under its velvet-like covering, now showed itself in a darker mood. The moors took on a more menacing aspect, the heather now a gloomy dark carpet, the tors great black monsters crouching ready to leap.
Even Baldwin gave a shudder at the sight. Though he instinctively rejected any suggestion that there could be ghouls or ghosts seeking out souls…it was easy to understand how such fears could arise. The huge open space of the moors with its almost complete lack of trees made a man realize how small he was when compared with the vastness of nature.