Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Where do ideas come from?
Since my problem isn’t one of finding ideas, but of sticking with one and seeing it through to the (bitter) end, I immediately skim over the question. Invariably, I return to it later in the day because I will never have enough ideas. Besides, like everyone else, I am interested in hearing how that particular idea occurred to that particular author to make that particular best seller.
If it were just a matter of coming up with a great idea and writing it, we’d be out of a job. Fortunately/unfortunately, writing is not that simple. We don’t just need ideas at the beginning of a novel. Great ideas should consistently appear throughout the entire story because that’s what makes the story appealing to readers…the continuing conflict and the character’s struggle to over come that conflict in order to achieve her goals. So while I may have a firm grasp on what the story I'm writing is going to be about, I am constantly thinking about how the story will unfold—how the primary characters will act, the decisions they could/should/will make, how secondary characters and their actions will contribute in an interesting way, etc.
I have never heard any author admit that she sat staring at her computer screen for a week and then was suddenly and magically inspired with the million dollar idea. So forget about waiting for inspiration to hit (or for the illusive muse to knock on your door), go out and find it.
Since ideas—even those that appear to have no realistic basis—usually have a basis in reality, here are 5 great ways to become inspired by reality (in no particular order):
1. EAT OUT – If sitting in front of the computer all day wasn’t cause enough for calories to glue themselves to your waistline (especially if you are like me and your computer desk is right next to the pantry), here is another way. Have dinner out. Go to a place you don’t usually frequent; situate yourself where you can see what is going on around you. I’ve found that people tend to be themselves when they are out with friends, especially if food and wine are involved. Enjoy the fact that you don’t have to cook or do the dishes and call it research! (Oh and don’t forget to jot a few notes down.)
2. TAKE THE BUS – Public transportation is rife with interesting characters and there is no better place or time (since you aren’t driving) to unobtrusively observe them. If you are from Regina and you ride the bus, you’ve probably encountered the elderly woman who wears her blue eye-shadow all the way to her hairline. Why? Who knows…but just thinking about the why can get the creative juices flowing.
3. READ NON-FICTION – You’ve heard the adage “stranger than fiction” right? Newspapers. Psychology text books. Self help books. Personal blogs. True stories. Instructional books on writing—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped reading a How to Write… book at page 11 because I was smacked in the head with an idea I just had to put on paper. The more you read, the more likely the story ideas will be chasing you down.
4. LISTEN TO MUSIC – Stephanie Meyer actually posts playlists on her website—the music she listened to while writing the novels in the Twilight series. Every time I hear the song Paralyzer by Finger Eleven this character pops into my head. I don’t know what his story is yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing it come out eventually. In this case, it was the music not the lyrics that inspired him (or me to create him).
5. DRIVE ALONE – Sometimes it is good old fashioned silence that inspires me. I was ready to pull my hair out with on particular story when I decided to drive two and a half hours to visit my parents. I talked to myself the entire way, verbally mapping out where the story could go. My parents thought it was strange that I was nearly hoarse when I got there but I was happy to have the plot issues resolved.
Bloggers and fellow writers, what inspires your writing?