Five Places Writers Find Ideas
Blogger: Michelle Ule
I continue to fill in for Janet this week. She developed a severe sinus infection and has been working to get well.
Some authors seem to have no problem with coming up with new book ideas; others struggle mightily. Most of us probably fall in between.
If you’re in need of an idea, here are five ways to find one:
“Give me a title,” I said to my father. “Robert wants me to write a story, but I can’t think of anything.”
“What difference will a title make?” He turned the pages of The Wall Street Journal.
“I just need something to get me started. No matter what the title, I’ll think up a story to match.”
I was seventeen.
My father hated questions like this. He frowned and of course went to the ridiculous. “How about The Creature that Ate Bakersfield?”
My shoulders drooped. Why didn’t he ever take me seriously?
I put up my chin. “Okay. The Creature that Ate Bakersfield. I’ll figure it out.”
It wasn’t the best story I ever wrote, but my boyfriend liked it and accepted the story as payment in full for a debt.
I’m not so desperate any more.
- The Universe.
I can’t really say where some of my ideas come from. I’m just sitting on the couch minding my own business and suddenly think, “I wonder what would happen if . . .” This can apply to nonfiction as well. Often nonfiction writers choose a topic that’s been bugging them or they think they’ve figured out some solutions for.
- The Internet
No surprise here, plenty of writer websites provide prompts. Here’s just one spot.
- The Bible
How many times have I read a passage of Scripture and wondered just how that would apply in real life? What would happen if a woman actually grabbed the pearls off her neck and threw them in front of some swine?
For novelists, pick your own passage and translate it into modern life, your personal circumstances, or an historic setting.
For nonfiction writers, what’s the heart of your puzzlement over a passage? Might that question lead to a book?
Maybe you just need a title to get you started. Poetry is full of imagery and nuance. Choose a poem that means a great deal to you, particularly the line that really resonates, and consider what it would look like to write a story to match that phrase.
For nonfiction writers, poems present life’s pressing questions in neat packages, but often those packages are Pandora’s box. If you were to structure a book around a poem, which one has contents that stir your heart and mind?
- Your emotions
Think back through your life to an incident that still provokes an emotional reaction in you. Why? What’s going on there and how can you express the feelings in a story? Or for a nonfiction writer, what perennial topic does that incident tap into?
- Bonus! Your own problems.
I don’t know about you, but I’m very conscious that when I write, I’m working out something in my life. I don’t always know when I start, but I usually realize by the end what issue is propelling me into this particular story (or for you nonfiction writers into a particular subject).
One of my unpublished novels dealt with a parent-child situation. I was working an issue with a child of mine at the time. Another was an attempt to put my military wife experience into perspective. Still another dealt with my grief over not choosing to adopt a child another woman ended up aborting.
Heavy stuff, but important for my story and me.
When you can’t get started on a writing project, or when you just don’t feel like writing, what do you do to encourage words to flow onto the (cyber) page?
Or, better, where have some of your unique ideas come from?