Friday, September 2, 2011
Shop Smart. Shop Idea-Mart: Coming Up With Story Ideas
It’s got to be the single most popular question a writer hears: where do you get your ideas? I answer it every event I do, often more than once for school visits. I never mind, because it is something folks are interested in, and it’s a great icebreaker to get other questions rolling. I know I’ll get that question even if I get no others.
So where do I get my ideas? And better yet, where can you find them when you need them?
I know, cheesy answer, but it’s true. I get ideas all the time. This post was actually inspired by an idea that hit me when I made a casual comment to a friend in an e-mail. And the kicker? It’s a comment I’ve made a hundred times. One of those types of offhand funny comments you make without even thinking about it.
This time, it gave me an idea for a story.
I can’t tell you why. I wasn’t thinking about story ideas and there’s nothing else going on that connected to this idea, it just hit me out of nowhere. Ideas do that.
I immediately wrote it down. It’s nothing but a premise now, no characters or anything, and will take work to turn it into anything worth reading. But it’s an idea.
I’m willing to bet you get ideas all the time too. Writers are creative folk and ideas are our business. “That would make a cool book” probably pops into your head fairly often. But how many out there actually take the time to write those ideas down?
I didn’t for the longest time and I lost so many ideas. I finally started keeping them in a file called “novel ideas and hooks” with whatever info came to me. When a new thought hits me for a specific idea, I add it to the file.
Right now I have twenty-seven ideas in that file. That’s right twenty-seven.
Some are for multiple books. I have a trilogy that is barely more than three totally awesome titles my hubby came up with when we were thinking up new titles for The Shifter. Over a year after I wrote the titles down, I finally had an idea that fit those titles.
Not all of these ideas will turn into books. Even the ones that do won’t all be books worth reading. Some I might even give up on after a few chapters and put them back in the file. But I check that file all the time, add to it, and when I’m ready to start a new book I go there first.
Ideas are everywhere. The trick isn’t having them or finding them, it’s keeping and remembering them.
Try starting your own idea file. Keep paper with you so you can jot down ideas as they come to you. (I have a small spiral notebook in my purse and the car) Don’t worry if the idea isn’t fully formed. I had those three titles in my file for almost two years before I figured out a story to go with them. If you think up great titles, save them. Same with characters or even great lines. You never know when an idea to fit them will come to you. And if you have the ideas there and remember them, odds are your subconscious is churning away and will put the pieces together for you one day. You never know where that perfect story idea will come from.
And when those great book ideas hit you, write down where you came up with the idea. Because you will need that one day. Folks are gonna ask.
Where do you get your ideas? Do you keep an idea file? Do you have story ideas waiting for the right pieces to start writing them?