Don’t you sometimes wonder, when you’re reading something, how the author came up with that idea? Or maybe you’re the author, banging your head against the wall, trying to force out that next great brainstorm! For some people, generating new ideas is as easy as breathing. They sit at their desk and the ideas flow. For the rest of us . . .
Thankfully there are things we can do to help open the ol’ noggin. Here are just a few that I find useful from time to time.
Everything. Not just books in your genre, but EVERYTHING. Newspapers, fliers, ads, studies, blogs – whatever happens to be handy at the time.
Play ‘What If’
Take everyday situations, and put the ‘what if’ twist on them. Watch what’s going on around you and ask yourself what would happen if circumstances were somehow different.
What if . . . there was a place, where everybody knew your name – and then one day they didn’t? Or vice versa.
What if . . . you really could walk through walls?
What if . . . you found out you aren’t who you thought you were? Or, you are.
I have several notebooks (and computer files) that contain nothing but quotes, lyrics, snatches of dialogue, poems and the like. Anything that strikes a chord. When I’m feeling totally devoid of inspiration I thumb through them. You never know what they’ll prompt. Sometimes it’s no more than a feeling, sometimes a character or a scene.
“Time to change has come and gone, Watched your fears become your god” ~ Alice in Chains
“When I first saw your trespasser
He wandered uninvited
To your door
He seemed to know his way around
Although I’d never seen
His face before” ~Al Stewart
“In the absence of light, darkness prevails. There are things that go bump in the night, Agent Myers. Make no mistake about that. And we are the ones who bump back.” Professor Bruttenholm from the movie Hellboy
I have file folders of random images I call my ‘morgue’. I used the images mainly for reference when I was doing more painting and drawing than writing. If a picture is worth a thousand words, use that picture to write a thousand words. The monthly Flash Fiction contest over at Devin O’Branagan’s forum often uses an image as the writing prompt.
Respectfully, of course. Use other people’s conversations as a springboard for ideas. Not everyone handles life the same, not everyone’s life is the same. Do you want to improve your characters and your dialogue? Become a people watcher.