Tuesday, April 12, 2011

For Writers - The Idea Fairy

One of the most frequently asked questions I get at school visits and in emails from young readers/writers is: Where do you get your ideas?

Well, there's ideas.com, the idea fairy, Bennie's Big Book of Ideas...

I think what most readers are asking is, what made you want to write about this? But what most budding writers (young and old) are asking is, where do you find the ideas? or, more to the point, how can I come up with original ideas for my own writing?

The answer is that ideas come from all over. From books and magazines, movies and the news. They come from watching people, interacting with people, helping people, in short, they come from living life (and paying attention). My writing friends and I often say (especially when we're slogging through a tough time) "It's all fodder!" In other words, everything we see, hear, feel, do, read, experience - it all goes into the mill for turning out stories.

But, that not being particularly helpful or concise for someone who just needs a little advice on how to jump start their muse*, I give you:

5 Simple Tricks for Generating Story Ideas:

1. Fix what's broken: Have you ever read a book or seen a movie that you just can't like because of a major plot or character flaw? Write your own, improved version.

2. Go classic: Take the plot of a classic movie, book, fairy tale or folk tale and put your own unique twist on it. Set it in a different time or place. Switch the characters' genders. Add a sci-fi, fantasy, or paranormal twist on it. In short, change it up and have fun.

3. Get lyrical: Listen for the story behind the music in your favorite songs. Write about it. (For a brilliant example of how this could evolve, read Nancy Werlin's IMPOSSIBLE.)

4. Follow the promptings: Develop a story from a simple prompt. Here are some links to help you out: Story-Portal, Writers' Digest, Writing.com, or even use some great first lines for your prompts: DailyTips

5. Power up the Generator: Story generators are a fun jumping off place. In fact, the first book of my DEATH BY BIKINI MYSTERIES series evolved from a story generator exercise. You never know where these may lead you.
Story Generator, Complications Generator, Theme Generator, Character Generator

* In the end, you need to write what you are passionate about, what interests you, what moves you, but these are fun ways to get the juices flowing when you're stuck.

This Week's Link Roundup:

Hooks (Editor's Blog) Can't hook 'em with a yawn

Action scenes (Beyond the Margins) When to stay with the action, when you can digress

What to keep and what to kill (Gail Carson Levine) on getting to the point and killing darlings

The key to writing for MG (On Reading) Don't overthink things

So What? (The Other Side of the Story) Making readers care

Writing likable Characters (Cynsations) Guest post by Elise Broach

4 questions to ask about eccentric characters (FloridaWriters)

5 ways to avoid infodump (Publetariat) Slipping in the backstory

More on Backstory (Querytracker) Deepening your story by knowing your characters

8 Elements of good satire (QueryTracker) Writing humor.

7 tips for Finding your voice (Cheryl's Musings)

More on voice (Novel Matters) Voice=authority

And more voice (The other side of the Story) great exercises for finding your voice

18 questions to ask your characters (iggi&gabbi) Character development

Character (The Character Therapist) Worksheets for finding out what makes them tick

Characters: Switching the goal (Write About Now) Characters' choices reveal who they are

Details (Adventures in writing) Short and sweet post - it's the details that pull readers in

Descriptions (It's A Mystery) Keep only what adds to the story.

Building a fantasy world (Sisters in Scribe) Let your readers discover it when it matters.

Using the 5 senses (Falling Leaflets)

Best Advice (Class of 2K11) Debut authors spill on their best writing advice.

5 Revising Tricks (YA Highway) Anything to get us through revision!

6 Steps to Revision (WOW) Give it a clean sweep.

Coherent Paragraphs (edittorent)

4 Things to Check before sending your Query (YA Highway)

8 Things Kristin Nelson wants you to query her with (Pub Rants)

10 Places to submit your fiction (paperback writer)

Now go. Write!

P.S . Check out the celebratory post and cheer for the IOC finally including women athletes in the Nordic Jump events (and enter to win a ski-jumping-centric book, THE FINNISH LINE)!