I love how we are all different in how we come up with our writing ideas. I once thought that coming up with an idea for a story would be easy, but it’s not necessarily. Sometimes it can be very difficult.
Just ask anyone who has experienced writers block.
I’ve personally never experienced writers block to the extent that I didn’t know what to write about. My characters often run away with the story as I’m writing it. Sometimes I think the story will go one way, but my characters take over and it goes the complete opposite direction.
And, for some reason, usually the characters are right in the direction that they want to go in. If they get side-tracked, then the story can twist and turn in directions you had no intention of it going in. But, sometimes that’s a good thing.
A few other members of the WMD group have offered how they came up with the ideas that have ended up becoming novels, poetry or short stories.
Mike wrote: My inspiration for my writing came from an unusual source. Lucid dreams. The summer after my Sophomore year of High School ended, I began having dreams of a post-apocalyptic world. They continued for 4 years, building on each other.
At first, I had no idea what was happening. It was 2 years before I even told anyone about what was happening. When I finally did, they all told me the same thing: “Write it down!” The problem is, dreams are not usually all that clear. After the dreams ended, I spent 11 years assembling them into what is now unfolding as the 7 Scorpions trilogy.
Mark wrote: When I was eleven years old, a sudden stillness in the air made me wander outside. Everything, even my own skin, turned a sickly green that seemed to glow from the inside, and all I could do was stand there as the Super Outbreak of April 3rd, 1974 passed by. I didn’t find out until later that a tornado, one of 148 across the country, touched down within a few miles of where I stood.
At the time I was reading and rereading L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, which of course begin with Dorothy Gale being swept away in a twister. In later books she ends up in Oz via a Pacific cyclone and an earthquake. Is it any wonder that I became fascinated by disasters? A quarter of a century later an idea seemed to come to me, about a young woman who follows her fascination with the weather into a career of storm chasing. But it didn’t suddenly come to me at all, of course: It had been gestating for all that time.
In the end, I suppose Storm Chaser grew from my desire to write an Oz book of my own – not that I won’t tackle that delicate job in full, someday.
Donna wrote: Stories just come to me, so I add a note and a title to my computer file. I work on the stories that continue to build. Sometimes, I’ll come up with a story from the news or something I read.
My characters are all composites of me or people I’ve known with habits or sayings I don’t forget. I let the story and the characters take me where they want to go. The characters develop as the story unfolds.
Christina wrote: I’m a visual learner, so I get ideas from pictures and the world around me. Whenever I’m coming up with a new character, I’ll go out and people watch (in a non-stalker kind of way). Paying close attention to other people’s mannerisms helps me pin down exactly how my main characters should or shouldn’t act. I like to pick an easily recognizable face, like a celebrity, and assign it to a character. Whenever I’m writing their dialogue, I like to see their faces and mannerisms in my head. It helps me bring the character to life. Then pretty soon they’re off doing their own thing and I have to reign them back in!
I do the same exact thing with settings. For a scene in the novel I’m working on The Rain Bringers, I was writing about a ball in a beautiful hotel. I was having trouble putting into words what I was visualizing. I did a search on hotels in France until I found one that looked exactly how I imagined the one in my story. Having that real-life picture to look at helped me articulate the setting beautifully.
William wrote: I come up with my ideas in a whole lot of different ways. Some of it comes from the reading I’ve done over the years, little bits of information that I file away in my head and bring out when it feels right for a plotline or background. So while I’m reading, say, a book on archaeology, a particular factoid might be put aside for use down the line.
Watching and reading the news is another source of ideas, keeping an eye on what’s going on out in the world. In the last few months we’ve all seen the uprisings through the Middle East, and that’s certainly had an influence on the book I’m working on, on many of the characters. In fact, the central idea of Heaven & Hell, what I call the Very Bad Thing (no, I’m not telling!) comes from watching a news report some years ago from Israel. It led me to ask a question, as to what would happen if terrorists destroyed a very specific place. The book runs with that premise.
And life, of course, is a source of ideas, whether it’s just from people watching and noticing details that get filed away, or if it’s something more immediate. People who have read my blogs and comments for awhile now have heard me mention a certain idiot ex-brother-in-law from time to time. Let’s just say that the moron (which is an insult to morons) makes a brief appearance under a different name in the book, and one of my main characters gets to do what I’ve wanted to do many a time. I even used a phrase the dimwit used in a conversation with me.
Shelly wrote: Most times I do what I call fart writing. The general idea is something pops into your head, and the stench of it stays there until you’ve written it down. No Lysol is needed.
Also, there are those times I’m driving, taking a shower, washing dishes, practicing my yoga, or weight training and KAPOWIE, I hear voices. They chat, chat, and chat more. Really. This irks the patooty out of me, too. OMG. The voices never shut up. Contessa and Arthur. Lila and Gram. Frankie and Luis. Ariel and Phil. Sometimes they’re all yakking at once.
Last, I get a lot of my ideas when I’m in my REM state otherwise known as the dream state. Once, I ate a serial killers hands. Also, a waitress waited on me while she kept a conversation with an imaginary person. And, I’ve been cornered by a snake posing as Jesus Christ Himself.
Oh, did I mention, I know lots of crazy people, too.
From having done both these blogs, I’ve concluded that there is far too much going on in the real world to ever get lost in a fake one. There are characters we meet on the streets everyday that we could use as people in our stories. There are places that are real, or imagined, that should keep our stories fresh and vibrant. No one should ever be at a loss for a name or a story. Yet, sometimes we are.
Thank you everyone who contributed to both blogs. This has been a learning experience for all of us. And, maybe we’ve helped someone out of their own writers block.