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Where Do Ideas Come From?

December 6, 2011

The short answer is “life.” Everything we do is rife with possibilities for story ideas. I love to sit at Star Bucks with my ear buds in and my iPod off. You would be surprised at the things people will talk about if they think no one is listening. I know, it smells of the CIA, but it is what it is.

Coming up with fresh ideas seems to be the bane of young writers. One reason is a lack of life experience. Instead of lamenting over the blank page, get out into the thick of things. There are endless opportunities to interact with other people, and that is where the real stories come to life. A trip to the mall can have other benefits than a new pair of shoes. The lives of real people all around you play out like block-buster movies. Take what you hear and file it away. You’ll be able to use it one day.

The greatest skill a writer can develop is the art of listening. There are undercurrents to what people say, and a writer needs to hear more than just words. A piece of sound advice that I remember is to listen twice as much as you talk. Many of the people I know have it backwards. Beyond that, you must be an active listener. The tendency of most people is to think about what they are going to say next instead of listening to what the speaker has to say. Practice active listening, and you will have an endless supply of new ideas.

Allow me to quote me (no grammar rants, please.) This is one of the few, smart things I’ve ever said. — “Every person is a story, and every story is a person.” This applies to literary short fiction and poetry, as well as novels, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, and all other forms of genre and literature. Here is a simple way to think about it; Of Mice and Men is not about the mice, or in genre terms, “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman is not about the clock.

Where do you get your ideas? How do you gather them? Do you keep a list or a file to refer to? Do you carry something with you, old-school or new, to act as a capture device for new ideas? Post your comments. Who knows, it might spark a new idea.

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From → Art and Craft

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