Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Birth of an Idea

Finding ideas can sometimes be entirely hopeless. Usually, when you have one idea, many more seem to pile up, but when you don't have a single idea, there is just... air. Fluff. Nothing. So, how does one get at an idea when one is in dire need of one? Well, the first and most important rule of idea-gathering is always to have a notebook and a pen or pencil nearby. I have notebook strategically placed around my apartment, and I go nowhere without at least a scrap of paper to scribble on. If you cannot write your ideas down you might as well give up immediately. You'll just forget them before you can develop them into something more substantial anyway.

All right, you have your notebook(s). Now what? I get my ideas from pretty much everything - things I see, things I hear, things I do, things I just come up with out of the blue, and other random things. However, there are a certain number of sources that I turn to more often for inspiration.

My best ideas I get from dreams. When I wake up and realise I've dreamt something that would make a good story (which isn't all that often, unfortunately) I immediately write it down. If you have tried remembering dreams you will know that it's like keeping water in your cupped hands - the more you try to hold on to it, the faster it slips away. So write fast!

Other, more reliable, sources of ideas are quotes. I have about a million quotes written down everywhere.  Some people probably just see them as noteworthy, funny or strange, but I see stories in them. A good thing about quotes is that everyone will find different stories in them. I'll share some of my inspirational quotes with you, and I'll bet you anything that the ideas in your head will be completely different from mine.

"The owls are not what they seem." - The Giant from Twin Peaks
"All is a riddle and the key to a riddle is another riddle." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." - Confucius
"The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw
"Just keep swimming." - Dory from Finding Nemo
"Life is a hell of a thing to happen to a person." - SSA Rossi from Criminal Minds

Other idea-titillating source is music. Pick a song and write about it! It's the same as with the quotes, only with more text to base your story on. Or perhaps the melody alone will speak to you. I'm sure classical music can be a great inspiration. I once wrote a (rather predictable, I'm afraid) short story based on the Annie Lennox song Into the West (yes, the one from RotK).

I hope I have been able to help you with your inspiration. Ideas aren't something you sit around and wait for, you have to go out there and hunt them down! But once you've caught them you won't be able to shake them off, and that's when you know you have a great story. Because the best stories are those that stay with us, aren't they?

This is a video of Stephen King, telling how he found inspiration to a story from real life.

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