When I first started writing I got an incredible amount of help from other authors and aspiring writers - we helped each other, blogged about what we were doing, shared information and tips. My career is in its infancy, I'm still learning everyday, and still love the input from other people, so I've decided to start a series of craft posts - I hope they will help other people, and you'll share advice and what works for you!
One question I’m often asked when I tell people that I’m a writer is - where do you get ideas from? To be honest I have too many story ideas – and too little time to write them! I’ve got a file stuffed with pages and pictures torn from magazines and newspapers, and scribbled notes – and a list on my laptop as well. When I do get stuck, this is how I get kick started...
1. News headlines – I don’t spend as much time as I should these days keeping up with the news, but I do watch the news on TV quite often and always skim through the Sunday supplements (Sunday is a non-writing day for me – I force myself to take time out!). There are often articles that grab my attention, whether it is the headline, a comment someone being interviewed makes, or just a picture. Don’t you ever wondered what happened next, or what triggered/caused the events? Or does someone just pique your interest and you wonder what they’re really like? And then there is just the ‘what if’ – what if things had happened slightly differently?
2. Pictures – these can be in the newspapers, on Facebook or twitter, on Pinterest (which I am trying to avoid – far too much of a distraction!)… Just a scene, or a picture of someone or a group of people can sow the seeds of a story. Why is she looking at him like that? Or just ‘cor he’s sexy, he needs a story!’. Or it can be just a landscape that reminds you of something or someone, or just so beautiful, or melancholy, or dangerous, or scary…
3. People – overheard conversations, watching people! I love people watching – my Zara Stoneley novella ‘Spice It Up’ just wrote itself after I’d been sat eating pinchos in a tapas bar in Barcelona, watching a sexy waiter and animated customer chatting away in Spanish! And then there are the snippets of conversation, the hugs, the man sitting quietly in the corner reading, circling the job ads… the group of people who meet up every day on the heath with their dogs… the couple doing yoga on the beach.
4. Social trends/social networking – I find it fascinating watching people strike up and develop relationships in public on places like Facebook and twitter – but what happens when they decide to go offline? Maybe they become best friends, share their lives, or maybe they become lovers – meet up…. I decided to write ‘Text me Tweet me, Need me’ because it fascinates me how two people could meet online and be perfect for each other – there are thousands of people online, so what are the chances of actually finding the one for you? But it happens! Why?
Social trends are widely reported online, and we can’t miss them – music, tattoos, popular story genres (i.e. BDSM), film genres – even things like where we work, how we work, how we find dates, where we socialise. Society is constantly changing (but some things stay the same), watch them and wonder… Did the girl, who learned to dance because it was suddenly popular, find her perfect partner – or was he in the coffee shop she went to everyday all along, under her nose, but she never noticed him?
My only warning on this one would be not to write the type of story that is ‘in trend’ – two reasons, one if it isn’t really what you want to read then people will be able to tell, and two by the time you’ve written, subbed and edited then it might not be in vogue any more. Don’t chase, lead!
5. Online – this one is linked to all the others I suppose! Spend time online, socialising or just skipping between websites and there are stories… reading blog posts (it’s amazing what people will make public), reading sad stories, happy success stories, finding out what makes people tick and why.
6. Movies/TV programmes – I’m not talking about copying here, just being inspired. Maybe by a particular character or event, maybe by a storyline that triggers off a totally different sequence of events in your mind.
For me, there are two main times when I need inspiration. The first is the initial story idea, and the second is when I hit the ‘sticky middle’ or just generally get stuck in a story. Sometimes just taking time out, sitting and watching people, going for a long walk and standing by a beautiful lake… can set the creative juices flowing again.
What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from? I really would love to know where other people get their inspiration from. Does it start with a character, a ‘what if’, a setting, an untold story? Please leave a comment and share.