Saturday, January 12, 2008

In The Beginning…Where do writers get new ideas? by Carrie Lewis

It's the infamous question that makes authors roll their eyeballs. It's the question eighty percent of the interviewers I've ever met have asked. Where do you get your ideas? Argh! I have a dozen replies: From brownies, did you bring any? I subscribe to Idea Monthly. Little green men whisper them to me while I sleep.

But seriously.... Seriously? yes, seriously Carrie Lewis has wriiten the greatest piece on where writers get their ideas. It's wriiten as a help to writers, but Dear Reader, you will enjoy the real story of where ideas come from.

Without further ado, Carrie Lewis:

In the beginning of a writing career, ideas often fly around waiting to be snatched out of the air and turned into a full manuscript. But once the obvious stories have been written from where do fresh ideas originate? Before the character sketches, plots, written words, edits or publishing contracts, you must start with some concept of the plot, scene, conflict or character. In short, you must have an idea.

The problem is that once the story that kept you up at night has been written, where do you get new ideas? How do you keep moving forward as a writer when all your initial ideas have been used? Here are a few tips to get the juices flowing should writer’s block set in:

1. Research a topic that holds some interest. Wait until a factoid jumps out and watch as the creative juices surround it, nourish it and develop it into a novel. Hit the library, magazine stand or watch the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Biography channel, etc. Be sure to take notes on anything or anyone that catches your interest. If you don’t use it right away, eventually you will.

2 Read magazines and newspapers and keep files on interesting places, people, careers, even interior design or clothes. Anything that will add depth to a story, texture to a description, or defining quirk to a character.

3. Always be an ear for troubled friends (and venting strangers), and rather than offering unsolicited advice, write them the life you feel they should have. They need never know.

4. Be an experience junkie and try new things. You never know where a good idea, a rich detail, or an insight into a hobby, career, personality or lifestyle will come from. The devil may be in the details, but so is inspiration and the arts.

5. Steal a scene from your life, swap the characters and build a world around it. For example, sitting on the bus and see a group of friends get on all wearing the same black overcoat? Potentially means nothing, unless they are an elite group of hired assassins looking for some innocent-appearing woman on your bus who holds top secret information.

6. Be critical. If you read a book, watch a movie or listen to song lyrics and can think of a better way to tell the story or scene, capture it and use it as your own.

7. Take a classic storyline and replace the hero and heroine with a contrary personality. For example take The Little Mermaid and rather than have her be some sweet young lady, write her as a feminist with determination of steel. While you’re at it, make the Prince a pirate—they’re hot right now.

8. Change the perspective. This has already been done award-winningly well by Gregory Maguire when he redid Wizard of Oz from the perspective of the misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West, in Wicked.

9. Change the order. Take, for example, the Wizard of Oz and imagine that Dorothy gets swept off to Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West attacks her in front of all of Munchkinland for the ruby slippers. Except this time have Dorothy fight back, keep the slippers and gets transported back home—all in act one. When she lands she can realize that the Wicked Witch held on and they are both back in Kansas.

10. Pick a historical event and change the outcome. For example, if Napoleon had taken over the world, Mary Queen of Scots had been able to assassinate Queen Elizabeth or Rome had never fallen…Pick an event large or small, change the outcome and see what happens. A new world, a new story, a new bestseller.

Robertson Davies said it best: I do not ‘get’ ideas; ideas get me.

So go out there and get got. But if ideas fail to capture you right away, use some of these tips to brainstorm your way to the bestseller list.

Carrie Lewis
PRO Liaison and columnist for Toronto Romance Writers
and From the Heart Romance Writers

Thanks, Carrie, for permission to use this great article!

No comments:

Post a Comment