Tag s | Creativity

In Search of Ideas

Authors, I’m guessing you’ve heard this question over and over: “Where do you get your ideas?” I know I’ve heard it more times than I can count. Now, if you’re like most writers I know, ideas for possible stories come fast and furious—most of the time. But what to do when you feel as though the idea well has run dusty and dry?

Well! Let me share a few standards that I, and other authors I know, rely on:

The Media

That old saying that the truth is stranger than fiction has stood the test of time for one reason: It’s true! I’ve discovered that the news, whether on TV or in a paper or online, is a veritable mine of ideas just waiting to be…well, mined. <grin> It just happened to me again this morning. My dad was reading to me from the local paper about a hit and run accident in our area. At 3 am day before yesterday, a woman driving a pickup ran a red light, slammed into a van carrying workers on their way to a job, then jumped from her truck and ran away. One worker was killed, three others seriously injured. The police finally caught the woman at her home, and when they did so she was suffering from a multitude of injuries, probably, the authorities said, from the crash.

SO, I’m listening to him read, and this is where my mind goes:

What if the woman they arrested wasn’t the one driving the truck? What if it was someone who wanted to kill the driver of that van? So she stole the pickup of a woman she’d been watching, a woman who lives alone, who is known to drink excessively, who has received at least one DUI. Just before she steals the pickup, what if she attacked the inebriated woman, causing her injuries? Then she takes the pickup, T-bones the van to kill the driver, then takes off. Of course, when the authorities come after the woman who drinks, they won’t believe it wasn’t her, that someone just “happened” to attack her and steal her pickup.

And on it goes from there.

Okay, I’m not saying the idea is perfect, but what I am saying is it’s amazing how many real stories can spark a “What if” scenario, than can then become a book.

Personal Experiences

Some of the most powerful nonfiction I’ve read has stemmed from what the author, or someone close to the author, really experienced. Who are the people around you? What are their stories? What about their stories gets your heart pumping, sparks your outrage, warms your heart? Listen and ask questions. There are stories just waiting for you to discover them.

Observation

One of the best things you can do when you’re looking for ideas is people watch. Seriously! Go to the mall, an airport, the park—any place that’s busy. Then sit down, and watch. Watch the interactions between people. Watch expressions and body language. Look at how folks are dressed, what they’re doing, how they act.

We have a bohemian community not too far from us, and it’s a veritable feast of odd characters to observe. There’s the man trapped in his own world who sits on the same bench every day. He’ll watch people passing by for a minute, then suddenly he freezes in whatever pose he is in. He sits like a statue for five minutes or so, then comes back to life. A few minutes later, he freezes again. It’s as though he just catches some inner bus to another destination, then comes back. I’ve watched him a number of times and wondered…

What happened in his life that brought him to this place?

What does he see, hear, think, feel while he’s checked out?

What if he’s not really crazy, but he’s some researching watching to see how people react? Or what if he’s an undercover cop, and this is a persona he’s created to keep an eye on the bad guys? OR, what if (and this shows you how bizarre my brain is) what’s going on in his head is reality, and I’m actually a part of the delusion??

Watch people, let your imagination run wild. The ideas and stories will follow.

Okay, those are a few suggestions for sparking ideas. Now, your turn! Where do you find ideas for the books you write?

Can’t wait to read your responses!

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News You Can Use – Mar. 6, 2012

Your Average Facebook Post Only Reaches 12% of Your Friends – Exposing yet another challenge to the world of marketing, either through traditional means or through social media.

New French Law Seizes Digital Rights – “Any book published in France–which would include translated foreign-language books–that went out of print in France–not necessarily elsewhere–before 2001, can be scanned into a database.” And then be made available without compensation.

It Has Come to This in Hollywood – GCB. Fire up the TiVo for that one… Good grief.

From Idea to Store Shelf – I love these kind of stories. Shows the incredible “curation” it takes for a good idea to become great and then what it takes to bring it to market. There are many parallels to the writing and publishing industry here.

Give it Five Minutes, Then React to an Idea – A good reason why appointments at a conference are 15 minutes long.

Free Mac Tools That Make Writing Easier – Agree or disagree? What tools do you use? And if you are on a PC, what do you use?

Anatomy of a Successful Press Release – Try writing one for your own book. Discover that is ain’t easy.

Eight Basic Don’ts for the Beginning Novelist – Steve Moore provides some great stuff. Good reminders for those who think they know this already.

This is a very clever ad for the British newspaper, “The Guardian.”
Click to view “The Three Little Pigs.”

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A Gathering of Twitches

This blog is from one twitch to another. Let me explain…

My husband loves that I’m a writer. He loves my creativity and passion. And he loves how happy I am when I’m writing. He knows when I’m writing because I get “twitchy.” Translation: Distracted. Otherwise occupied. Caught up in scenes and conversations no one but I—and that multitude in my mind–can see or hear. He knows that when the twitchies hit, he’s only wasting breath to ask me things like, “Did you pick up milk today?” or, more true-to-life, “Why is the milk in the oven?” He knows when I’m lost in twitchiness that I don’t realize what’s happening in the here and now. And so he just sighs, checks to see if the milk is still cold, then puts it away. Or goes to the store for a new gallon.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part Five)

As promised last week, when all else fails to spark your creativity, give one of these a try. They almost always work!

1. Do something relaxing. Take a pad and pencil or a mini-recorder along to capture ideas when they spark. Some relaxation ideas:

A nice, long bath Play with your pet. If you don’t have one, go to the dog park and borrow one! Go to a movie Cook something you love garden look through old family photo albums take a nap
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Let Creativity Flow (Part Four)

Great discussions on creativity, everyone. Just reading your comments is sparking my creativity! So here are the last of my thoughts on what you can do when that well of ideas seems to have run dry:

Take a Time Out. Remember how that works? Time outs? When you were a kid and got a little out of control, Mom sent you to the Time Out chair to cool off. Well, this is a similar principle. Too often we try too hard, which only makes creativity that much harder to find. So take a time-out. Give yourself time to play, to move, to get out of the house, away from your everyday life. Get out in nature. The woods, the ocean, a local park. Go to the library. Go to a museum and let the beauty of other people’s creativity wash over you. Go to the gun range and, as my hubby calls it, “plink.” Take a break from being an adult. Getting away from “it all,” at least once in a while, is restorative.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part Three)

We all know how elusive creative can be at times. You’ve shared some great ways to get those juices flowing. Here are a few more ideas.

Keep an Evidence Journal. Write down your God Stories. The times you saw God act. The times you felt His touch and presence. Do it with story or just key words. But get it down on paper. When God moves in your day, write it down. When someone speaks truth to your heart, write it down. When you struggle, write it down. Remember the children of Israel were told to write these truths on the doorposts that they might not forget all God had done for them. Then, when you’ve done that for awhile, go back and read what you wrote. It’s so easy to forget God’s faithfulness. What a blessing to have solid, firm evidence of His action, His presence in our lives, in our passion.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part Two)

I love the ideas you all shared about finding and sparking creavity. It’s fascinating to see how we’re all wired different. My next few blogs will share some additional things you can do to refill the wells of creavity. Have fun!

1. Disconnect from technology. Okay, don’t hyperventilate. But think about it. We have to be the most connected, available, interruptable people ever! Give yourself a break–literally. Shut off the phone, the computer, and anything else with an on/off switch. Focus on the silence. And what God has to tell you in the midst of it.

2. Regain Perspective. Remember, it’s not about you. Sure, it feels like it is, but it’s really not. It’s about what God wants to accomplish. So step away from yourself. Got mountains close by? The ocean? Anything bigger than you? Look at it. Let the sight of something truly huge and majestic remind you of your place in the world. And then remember that the God who created ALL of that beauty and majesty, not only created you, but CHOSE you as his child. And breathed into you His Spirit. And His creativity.

3. Go the other direction. Study something smaller than you (on a physical plane, that is). To to a playground and watch the kids. Take closeup photos of flowers, insects, leaves…whatever is around you. Look at the intricate way they’re made.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part One)

Creativity.

There are days when it flows as free as the Rogue River (and anyone who’s ever been to Oregon knows that’s free indeed!) When ideas come so hard and fast you can scarcely keep up. When the words fly from your fingers, through the keyboard, and onto the page. When creativity happens, it’s electric, exciting, energizing.

And then there are other days.

Days when you sit at the keyboard, staring at a blank screen. When you type…delete…type…delete…and on and on. Every word is a struggle, every character wooden, every plot point contrived. And you ask yourself, for the 110th time, “Why?”

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Ready, Set…WAIT!

Ah, New Year’s. When hearts soar with best intentions and resolutions tumble around us like snow-melt waterfalls. Our hearts and minds surge with all we want to be, all we hope to accomplish, all we regret and want to change…

Okay, now, show of hands: How many of you make New Year’s Resolutions?

Again, show of hands: How many of you KEEP them??

If you were here, watching me, you’d notice my hand is down. I’ve made hundreds of resolutions over the years, and I’ve broken almost every one. It took me a lot of years to understand that this fact doesn’t make me bad or weak-willed or a failure. It took me several more years to realize that the new year isn’t, for me, about resolutions. It isn’t about saying what I will and won’t do.

It’s about listening.

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Christmas Melodies

The good news for us in Virginia is that we rarely experience a white Christmas. Of course, for snow lovers, that is bad news. No sleigh rides for us.  Not even to a groovy beat. What I love is that winter is cold enough to call for a coat, but usually boots are more of a fashion statement than a necessity.

But here we have plenty of seasonal atmosphere, with an abundance of holly berry scents in candles and sprays, and Christmas music piped in to all the stores. I hope the writers of “Jingle Bell Rock”  and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”  retained their copyrights. Surely they must be billionaires by now.

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