Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Come Out, Come Out wherever You Are

 On Monday, we asked what mattered to you and you assembled an impressive list, including story structure, publicity, knowing which idea to begin first, where to begin in the whole process, adding value, Myers-Briggs personalities, the importance of grammar and where we get our ideas.

In an earlier post, I mentioned my favorite John Steinbeck quote: "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple, learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen."  I am jealous of people who have lists of possible story ideas.  I fight tooth-and-nail for every one. My rabbits must be tired.

Ray Bradbury, who passed away just this week (sniff! had his own trick for developing ideas.  He suggested making lists of experiences and words that trigger memories. Since he wrote of magical things that go bump in the night, he looked back up the stairway into the attic darkness of his childhood and made word lists that conjured stories.  Try making your own list of experiences - both good and bad - beginning with your earliest memories.  Everyone has those.

Every prolific writer has their tricks.  But just getting an idea doesn't mean it's salable or worthwhile. Life, like time to write, is too short to spend on unworthy ideas. 

Maybe we should consider what a good idea isn't.  A good story idea isn't contrived or predictable.  It doesn't have an agenda to push a certain viewpoint or rely on stereotypical characters.  It's not sterile or preachy with an atmosphere of intolerance inhibiting spiritual growth.  A good story idea is true to life and offers hope for the human condition.

Okay, some concrete suggestions.  If you're writing a contemporary story, you might want to peruse magazines like People or newspapers like USA Today or watch reality TV.  The issues discussed in these are current and fresh. (I knew Jodi Picoult would write a book about autism before she ever announced it.)  This is true for any genre. I'll bet you know of magazines and journals for topics that interest you, including new historical findings and scientific discoveries which could trigger story ideas. A speaker at a writers conference once said that ideas are in the air.  If you get an idea, jump on it before another writer sells it first.

It's a given to me to ask for divine direction and inspiration.  God, the Giver of all good things and Distributor of talent, cares greatly what we write.

Do any of these ring a bell with you?  Please share where you feel your best ideas originate. We'd love to hear!


Susie Finkbeiner said...

My best ideas come from real people. People I know, people I follow around the grocery store (hey, there are some interesting shoppers), family members. I suppose I start with a character and build a story around him or her.

And, I completely agree that we need to stay away from writing novels to push our point. No soap-box novel writing!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Paying attention.

Noticing what gets me rattled, what pulls me in in the news or magazines. What women are talking about.

Anything with a strong emotional or moral pull.
~ Wendy

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Susie, the most interesting place for me to people-watch is the airport - such a varied gathering of people!
Wendy, I agree. I think there's more 'buy-in' that way for the reader, too.

Samantha Bennett said...

Ideas typically come in an image or phrase for me. Just a sliver of almost air. Love this post!

Laura S. said...

Many people get ideas in the bath or washing dishes (Agatha Christie!) but water never seems to trigger ideas for me. I get ideas from reading and watching people and talking to people. Many of my ideas come from discussions and conversation. I get ideas from looking at art, daydreaming in the sunshine, stargazing, and taking a walk. Ideas really are everywhere, all around us, and you're right that you better snatch it before someone else does!

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Samantha, love 'a sliver of almost air' :-)
Laura, in a different post, Patti Hill told us about shower crayons for idea. I guess it's stimulating. I usually have to chant my idea until I dry off so I won't forget. Love your other suggestions!

Patti Hill said...

Debbie, I so appreciate your practicality and wisdom. I also listen in on conversations. Look for patterns. They're everywhere, but I seldom get a story until I need it. One thing at a time for this brain.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

My ideas come from dreams and news stories and trying to see around corners and over fences. I set up a perfectly normal scenario and insist it goes somewhere unexpected.
Once I wrote about a man sitting on the edge of a forest listening at twilight. He turned into God enjoying the interactions of His creation in the weirdest way. The story just....hatches.