January 31, 2012

where ideas begin

I'm taking a break from the Vile Villains countdown (What can I say? I've been lazy.), because I want to talk about something else.

And it's my blog, I'll do what I want.

I want to chat about ideas. That's where everything begins. Someone has an idea and develops it into something more.

I sound totally arrogant when I say this, but I never have a shortage of ideas. The novels, short stories, blog posts, TV shows, movies and other projects I have on my to-do list is quite long. I love that, and have no apologizes for it.

A friend recently asked me where I came up with all of my ideas. That's a tough one for me to answer, because while some people put out fires or kick field goals (super manly professions I just threw out there), I come up with ideas. It's just something I do.

Still, there are a few practices I can share with you, and I hope you'll post comments with any tips you might have.

Five Ways to Get Ideas

•  Listen to your dreams. If a dream is vivid enough to keep my attention after I wake, I make a point to quickly jot it down in the notebook on my nightstand or in my phone. I try to put down as many memories as possible before I am completely out of that lucid state. I've actually had a few dreams pan out into scenes in a book or inspire a whole book.

•  Change your routine. I learned this one in journalism school. By changing your routine, such as taking a different route to work, you will not only get your brain thinking differently, but you will also see something new that might inspire you.

•  Eavesdrop. Every conversation you inadvertently (or intentionally) overhear can give you ideas. My writing group buddies and I just talked about this last night. You can not only add some flavor to the dialogue in your book, but who knows? Maybe hearing a girl recall her awful date from the night before might inspire something more. (This is another instance where having a notebook or phone handy will help. I've written down things people have said to me and worked them into stories later. That brings up another point: Be careful of what you say around me. You might end up in a book.)

•  Talk to others. In the past week I have had a few clear instances where talking with others helped me come up with a story idea, or at least plans to tell an already existing idea. For example, Friday night while conversing with a fellow author on Twitter (Natalie Aaron, one of the fabulous co-authors of Unscripted), I shared a personal story. She thought it was funny, threw out a book title and told me to write it, because she wanted to read it. I mentioned the exchange with my sister, who gave me a similar response and a few pointers on where I thought the story might go. By Saturday evening, I had a first chapter written and a rough outline for the rest of the book. Will this turn into a novel? Maybe. If it does, I'll have to send some major props to the woman who helped me come up with the idea. And this is only one example. For every story I tell, I can guarantee there was a moment where a conversation I had with a person transformed it into a better idea. This leads me to the next idea way...

•  Learn from experience. While I'm not saying you have to write a memoir, reality can inspire fiction. Take that story I shared with Natalie. It was a quick anecdote, but the more I talked about it with people and thought about it, the more I realized I could make it into a story. At this point it's stopped being autobiographical, but inspirational works. 

Now it's your turn. What do you do to come up with ideas? 

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