Merry Christmas Eve and Happy Holidays! I hope everybody is enjoying a lovely weekend with their loved ones. I know I am. This is a great oppportunity to let them know what your plans are for 2017.
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Once you've committed to writing a book you need an idea, some story that needs to be told. I have heard from some writer friends that they have troubles coming up with story ideas. If you struggle too, maybe you will find a tip here that will help generate ideas. Luckily I usually have a plethora of ideas. Although this comes with it's own set of problems. Like which ideas is the one I should write next? Which story has the most potential or inspires me the most? This post will cover how to gather ideas so you're never at a loss and a loose guide on choosing a story you'll want to stick with.
Story ideas are not hard to come by if you do a few simple things.
1. Always be on the lookout for story ideas. While you are watching TV or a movie, look for things that interest you, especially things you want to know more about.
An old writing adage says to "Write what you know." While that saying has its merits, I prefer to say, "Write what you want to know." Always be expanding your knowledge base and write whatever you want. Research! Research! Research! And then don't forget to write.
2. Carry a notebook everywhere you go.
Some people swear by this and carry their special writing ideas notebook around with them. While I am all for writing with pen and paper I don't always remember a physical notebook and I would likely forget it at home or in a shopping cart. Plus I don't always have room for even a small one in an already full diaper bag.
So for writing down ideas and inspiration on the go, I love my cell phone. I use a free app called Inkpad Notepad. It is simple to use and there is an online version that syncs with the notes on your phone so you can easily access them on your computer and back them up. But you can keep notes on your phone without a fancy app. I used to write a text message to no one and save it as a draft and that worked for me before I had a smart phone.
Not only does writing ideas down help you to remember them, it also helps quiet the idea so you can hear other things like #3.
3. Listen to characters.
This one is hard to explain. It is partially like #1. I look around my world for inspiration constantly but often times my stories are character driven meaning they are the center of the story rather than the plot or even the setting.
So while i'm searching for ideas I will have a character or two come to my mind wanting to talk. They tell me their stories and I listen. Sometimes I only get a snippet like one character told me he was a foster kid who almost had a family. Or a girl who was a stripper in New York City. But their stories were about so much more. They only gave me a starting place. Then bit by bit as I wrote they revealed more of themselves to me. Like how the boy had a need to protect and take care of others and how the stripper really just wanted to go home.
Whenever a character comes to me I write down something so I'll remember them. A description of who they tell me they are (Refer to #2). If they keep coming back to me, pestering me, I know I've got a great story on my hands. If they can make me care about them enough to write 50,000 words about them, odds are other people will also care about them.
That is how I pick which story or idea to write about. I think about the characters and whichever one is pushing the hardest that's the one I pick up and really start talking back to. I try to figure out who they really are, what's in their heart, and what drives them. I'm all about the characters.
Me and my mom (she's a big reader too) have often said that if the characters are phenomenal and the plot is mediocre, we'll still read the book because we care about the characters. But if the characters are flat and boring, even if the plot is the best thing since spray cheese or a time traveling delorian, we won't finish reading the book.
Not that that's an excuse to have a mediocre plot, but sometimes it's a saving grace. And you definitely don't want mediocre characters tarnishing your amazing plot. You want them both to shine.
So that's how I generate ideas and choose what to write about. I almost never go back to old ideas unless the characters still intrigue me. Usually I have newer shinier ideas that have caught my attention while writing the current project. But if I ever do find myself needing an idea, I'm glad I can go back and look through old ones for inspiration.
Is there anything else you do to find ideas? Are any of these methods you use? Am I crazy for saying I hear characters actually speaking to me? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your tips and tricks.
K. A. Jairl
My name is Kim and I'm glad you stopped by. This is where I post my triumphs and my downfalls as I fight the good fight of being a writer mom everyday.