In a previous post I have written about how idea generation is a habit, and not simply something that falls out of the sky into a writer’s lap. I highly recommend that post as it talks about why people might be struggling with idea generation.
Moving on from it though, it must be said that there are things you can do that will help ideas spark to life in you. I call these areas to find ideas in.
The first area is an obvious and often talked about one, and that is life around you.
In my writing classes I often talk about how ideas gathered from real life experience is that much more vibrant. This is because when you’ve experienced something yourself it’s easier to describe the sensation of the moment or the emotions one might feel in the situation.
So, things you’ve experienced yourself make for great ideas.
People tend to worry that this means they are only allowed to write down stories out of their own lives though, and for those of us who want to write fantasy, this just isn’t possible. I want to comfort you that this is not what this means at all.
Instead, when I say look for ideas in the physical world around you, I mean that you’re looking for small ideas that you can string together with other more fantastical elements to create your story.
An example from my own life is that I suffered from bad anxiety as a teenager and then one day I sat thinking about how anxiety could be a character in a story. There are certain characteristics to anxiety that I could turn into a character trait. At the same time, I was really interested in Irish mythology. I combined the two, and lo and behold a new story was born. A fantasy story, not a biography of my teenage life.
Now I know turning life experiences into ideas can be quite daunting, so I made a list of good places to find these kinds of ideas.
- People watching
When I’m giving writing lessons to kids, I’m often the bad influence that tells them to eavesdrop onto other’s conversations and make assumptions about strangers. This is because other people often have good stories or would make interesting characters.
So, listening in on a conversation, talking to your grandparents, or just staring at strangers really intensely are all good ways to start gathering ideas.
- Going on adventures
While I’ll admit that most writers live a shut-in life, there is something to be said about living a life worth writing about. This means going on holiday on occasion and trying new things. You can write about daring stunts without having done them, but they are easier to write when you have some idea of the physical sensation they would cause.
- Own traumas
Turning my anxiety into a story meant delving into my own hurts. It was very rewarding as the story ended up with an emotional realism that is difficult to write when it’s not something you’ve experienced yourself.
Many other great stories have done this, writing about tragedies and hurts that the author themselves has experienced. Now this doesn’t mean you can only write about pains you have personally experienced, humans are empathetic beings who can imagine pain even if they hadn’t felt it before.
However, it’s more realistic when you write about your own experiences.
- Own joys
Just like trauma can make for good ideas, positive experiences can also make for good ideas. New jobs, first loves, adventures, time with the family. All these things have been written about and it’s for a good reason, they make for good stories. So go ahead and start looking into moments in your life that you truly enjoyed and dig into how you can use them as ideas in stories.
Open your eyes to these things
With all this said, I feel the need to remind you that actively looking for ideas in the world around you are a great way to start preparing for your story. So go out, find ideas, and most importantly, write them down.