Thursday, April 22, 2010

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?

Simple answer: everywhere!

We writers sometimes laugh at ourselves because everything, and I do mean everything, blossoms in our minds as something to write about. Someone in the grocery line speaks snarky to us, and we smile inside thinking we’ve got a great place in our story to include those words.

Or we see a middle-age man at Starbucks every time we go in who’s sitting there hour after hour with a chessboard in front of him, waiting for someone to join him and play. We begin to ask questions: Why isn’t he at work? Do many folks play with him? Does he ever win? Why does he like chess so much? Does he have a family? Next thing you know, he’s the creepy antagonist in our story. Or even the handsome protagonist who’s in an undercover job!

Writers can take two unrelated news stories and combine them for a unique twist. Or they take on old classic story and give it a new slant. What if a Tom Sawyer story happened in 2010 on the streets of L.A.?  After all, Cinderella (rags to riches) stories have been retold through the centuries, and we still love them.

Some writers focus on an issue such as Internet bullying and find a story. Others reach into their own lives or the lives of their grandparents to find what they want to write about. Once a dream my daughter told me about sparked a story idea.

I’ve heard of writers who simply write the first line of a story and follow it wherever it leads. Sometimes we simply play games of “what if”. One of my writing students started thinking, what if there was another American Revolution? What if another George Washington leader emerged, but the leader was a woman? What if the man she fell in love with was blind? (I promise you, she’s got a great story going.)

At times writers start with a plot first, and other times they start with characters. It really doesn’t matter because writers get their ideas from everywhere.

I’d love to hear how you came up with ideas to write about.

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