Friday, July 13, 2007

On Writing Fantasy: Where Do You Get Ideas?

Many beginning and aspiring writers seek out information from professional authors about the craft of writing. The most common and persistent question they want to know is: Where do authors get their ideas? The answer is from everywhere and everything. Ideas are all around us most of the time. It is amazing where you can get ideas. Ways to obtain ideas can be relatively easy with the right tools, which I will share some of mine in this article.

First, two important things you should have with you as a writer. Always carry a notebook, minicassette recorder or something to write on with you. Ideas can be sneaky things. Write them down when you think of them. They can easily be lost in the daily business of our lives. Getting them down allows you to come back later and lets you continue with life until later. Don't be shy about people seeing you either. You are probably thought of as just someone writing notes down. With these things handy you can be ready for ideas most of the time.

One of the most important ways to get ideas is observation. A writer must learn to become a good observer. Watch people wherever you go. Observe the way they look, dress and how they act. Listen to different voices and mannerisms to know how people talk. This can help in writing dialogue. Look at the scenery surrounding you and describe it with active verbs and adjectives. Allow impressions to capture your thoughts and write them down, no matter how trivial you might think they are. You might not use all of these things, but it is helpful for visualizing scenes. Extending your observations to other things will be helpful too.

There are many things that can be sources of ideas for an author. Reading lots of different things and on different subjects can provide ideas. Clip articles that spark your interest. Put them away for future reference. Keeping a file box of index cards with ideas and information notes on each card can be helpful if you don't have the room for large file cabinets. Movies and television can spark some ideas too. You might think of different plot twists to spur your imagination or get totally different ideas. Conversations or discussions with friends, family and other people can generate ideas too. If something stands out, be sure to write it down when the conversation is done.

Dreams can be a valuable source of ideas, scenes or help. The subconscious part of our minds can bring forth interesting images while we sleep. Keeping a dream journal to record your dreams for ideas is important. I keep a tape recorder by my bed at night to record the dreams when I wake up. It's better to do this while the dream images are fresh in your memory. Waiting until morning risks forgetting them. I use another technique also. When I have trouble while working on a book or story, I attempt to put my dreams to work. I'll think about a particular scene before drifting off to sleep. This sometimes can trigger a dream about it that could provide you with ideas for your work. This technique can give you some interesting results. Be warned though, it doesn't always work every time.

Ideas are not hard for an author to find. They are abundant and can be found almost anywhere. Writers only need to be open minded to find ideas. Observation of people and surroundings can help with characterization and setting. Reading, dreams, movies, television, conversations and discussions are all sources for ideas. Keep a notebook or cassette recorder handy and let the ideas come. You might not use all of them, but there are always more to come.

Other sources for help:

The Writer’s Idea Book by Jim Heffron

The Writer’s Idea Workshop by Jim Heffron

Ideas in 90 Seconds by Ken Rand

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