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Finding Your Ideas

I wrote my first novels eons ago. Looking back, it was pretty crappy, but it was done. I remember feeling ‘empty’ by the time I was finished and I honestly felt like I hadn’t another idea in my head. Great. I was a one-hit-wonder.

Then I heard a song on the radio. It was pretty, in a sad sort of way. Little did I know that the song was a spark that set my imagination on fire. Since that time, I’ve learned to recognize ideas, thoughts and other creative means and I thought I’d share some with you.

1.     Brainstorm—Alone or with a friend, this is one of the most beneficial things you can do. So over coffee or your favorite umbrella drink, toss some ideas back and forth and for heaven’s sake, don’t forget to write them down!

2.     The What If Game—If you’ve got an inkling of an idea, run with it. Ask yourself (or your friend) ‘what if’ this happens. ‘What if’ that happens. This is your chance to get crazy and really creative because no one sees your ‘what ifs’ but you. Again, writer your ideas down, even if you don’t think you’re going to use them. You never know when you might want those ideas again.

3.     Watch TV or a Movie—Sometimes a little mindless entertainment isn’t really so mindless. Your brain is always working and you never know what might by your ‘spark’. I’ve written chapters based on one little phrase a character in a sitcom said. Write it down.

4.     Fracture a Fairytale—As a writer, we all love to read. So read! Find something that grabs your attention, rip it apart and put it back together. One immediate example that comes to mind is Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ ‘A Rose in Winter’. If that isn’t Beauty and the Beast slightly fractured, I don’t know what it is! For you parents out there, Disney books and movies are great sources of fairytales, just waiting for a little creative combustion.

5.     People Watch—This is one of my favorite things to do. I grab a coffee at Starbucks and sit at one of the tables in the mall walkway and watch the people go by. I’ve also done this on the bus, in a park or restaurant. After a while, it becomes second nature. Before long though, you’ll be wondering why that beautiful young woman is with that decrepit old man, and how he could have fathered all those children. (Did he really? Who knows?) Whatever could you do with an old man, young woman and a parcel of kids?? Write your ideas down.

6.     Pay Attention to Your Dreams—Our dream state is where our subconscious works out our day to day problems. It is also where our brain plays its own ‘what if’ game to provide us with a little reality escapism. Remember that song I told you about? It was followed later that night by a dream The next morning, Rebel Road was conceived.

If you have a cool dream, write it down and include as many details as possible.

Write it Down. This thought seems to be a familiar theme, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. All my ideas, whether they’re quickly jotted on a Starbucks napkin, Post-It note, scrap of paper or notepad all go into my ‘Future Plot’ folder. If I’m not sure what I want to write about next, or I’m stuck for an idea, I roam through that folder. Just a quick browse and my creative juices are flowing and before I know it, I’m slam-bang in the middle of another great ‘what if’ session. Try it. It works.

Now tell me, what works for you?

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