Ideas are the building blocks of stories. All it takes is a great idea to get a story going, and other awesome ideas to keep it rolling along. It can start anywhere from a super awesome character, a setting, a theme, an event, even cool technology and other items or thoughts that can give a story its original spark. Without that originating idea, stories would never be born or even conceived in the first place, so to be a writer it’s essential to be a collector of ideas.
Where do ideas come from? That’s an easy answer, but with an application that’s hard to apply at times. But let’s start with the answer first.
Ideas are everywhere you look. You don’t even have to get out of bed in the morning to find a whooper of an idea. Check out those cool looking shadows playing across the ceiling as you try to get the energy to get out of bed in the morning. The way the light hits reminds you of a landscape of interesting peaks and valleys. Peaceful, calm, serene. And then a car passes the window that morphs the scene into a blinding brightness, wiping everything from view and sending a pain through your still tired eyes, and it makes you wonder, “Huh, I wonder if that’s what it’s like to witness a solar flare up close?” And then the wheels start turning. Might you have found the basic plot for your next science fiction short story? Maybe the main character gets blasted with a solar flare and has to wear googles that make the world appear in shadows of light and darkness, but no real definition? Who knows, but the story got started because of one small observation that led to an idea.
Check out that guy at the mall. He’s an unusual one. He’s tall, skinny and looks like he swallowed a bag of lemons, and he’s got a huge mole at the tip of his chin. The mole looks like it’s dancing while he’s sucking on a slurpee. Eureka! You just found your antagonist for your next big novel. It’s the invasion of the Xithendkiyta and the parasites are taking over the world one dark menacing mole at a time! They enter through the mouth and pop out like sores all over the body, spreading the evilness for the love of dancing. Once completely infected, the Xithendkiyta make a person dance until the feet bleed and the person grows thin and pale. Yes, the world has certainly come to a most gruesomely joyous end!
Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. They jump at you from the page of that book you just can’t seem to stop reading. They swing from the television screen and slap you in the eyeball from that movie you decided to watch. They sneak up on you like a dark ninja as you bring the groceries in from the car and then karate kick you when finally noticing the flyer someone left on your doorstep. Gimerla’s Fancy Hair Do’s. Ten percent off first hair cut. And you think, “Wow, what a cool name for a Character… Gimerla Do.”
Yeah, ideas are everywhere. It’s important to be on the lookout for them, but even more importantly to grab them and put them down on paper before you forget it all together. Keep several notebooks just for that purpose, or just jot it down on a scrap of paper and put it somewhere you can find it later. Or here’s an idea, use that fancy iPhone and put a reminder in the notes app (I do that all the time!). Doesn’t really matter as long as the idea gets captured for later consumption by your creative muse.
But as I mentioned earlier, sometimes capturing the ideas is a lot easier than getting those ideas to work right. Sure, that idea sounds awesome and cool at first, but when it comes time to actually do something with that idea… well, that’s when things can get a little dicey. Check out my other post continuing the theme of ideas in Being a Nurturer of Ideas.