Where in the World Do I Begin?
Finding story ideas in every day life
Ideas are everywhere. They are in our dreams, they are outside the window, they are in our memories, and even in our favorite books or movies. But sometimes, it seems all these ideas are nowhere to be found when it’s time to start writing.
Have no fear; ideas are here!
The best way to become a better writer is to read, read, read. Without even realizing it, you will begin to understand the way a good sentence is structured, both visually and auditorily. You will be exposed to vocabulary words, strong verbs, and colorful adjectives. You will experience a visual scene unfolding in your mind and recognize it in good writing, in your writing. You may even imagine a completely new adventure for your favorite characters or use a setting you are familiar with to inspire a story idea. In order to accomplish this, you need to:
- Keep a reading log
- Start a Reading Journal
- Think about what you reading, while you’re reading it
- Get into the habit of writing down your feelings and responses to books
Studying books that you are reading is not the same as summarizing the plot. Make certain that you are considering how a scene makes you feel, what something looks or sounds like, or how it might change if the character was in your world or vice versa. Expand your mind as you indulge in a book, and you just might find the spark of an idea.
Start an Idea Journal
As you begin to collect ideas from the many books you read, you will want to organize them in one place. An idea journal is comprised of simple notes or paragraphs, shorts stories, poems, even pictures that you find inspiration from or have questions about. Here are some places to collect ideas:
- Daydreams—Your creative mind is always spinning and connecting dots. When you find yourself lost in those thoughts, write them down. They could be a premise for a story.
- Dreams—You will benefit from having a notepad by your bed to jot down any fragments you remember from your dreams. No matter how many times you think you’ll remember your dream in the morning, you most likely won’t. Many of my novels originated from scenes in various dreams that I luckily wrote down before they slipped away.
- Magazines & Newspapers—Many times truth is stranger than fiction. You can find all kinds of crazy, unique, and heartfelt stories in magazines and newspapers that could spark an idea. The trick is to use the true story as a base for your imagination to get started, not to copy the article down and simply retell it.
- Pictures & Illustrations—Art can be a huge inspiration to any writer. Find places where you can look at and even touch new things, visit a museum or art gallery, or look through photography books or websites riddled with pictures. Just make sure that if you are surfing the web, you have an adult with you in case any of the content is inappropriate. Two wonderful sites to find images are Pinterest and www.worth1000.com.
- People—Watching or listening to other people is a great way to get story ideas. Observe how they move, ticks they have, what they talk about, and use those as starting points to create unique characters or their backstory.
You can also use your own backstory as a place to get started from, like a memoir of a special event or something about your family history that you find interesting, exciting, or entertaining.
Let’s get started!
Find some images that inspire you either from Pinterest, real life, magazines, books, etc. Study them until you find one that speaks to you. Ask yourself the 5 Ws:
- Who is this?
- What are they doing or what brought them here?
- When is this?
- Where is this place or where are they going from here?
- Why are they in this scene?
- How did they get there or how are they going to get out?
Jot down several ideas until you have one that gets you started. Write out a simple scene for at least 15 minutes, or save the notes for a rainy day when you are looking for something new to write about.
About Your Program Creator
Jaimie M. Engle is a freelance writer and the owner of A Writer For Life, an editing and coaching service for aspiring writers. Her work has appeared online including Writer’s Digest and the Dr. Laura Program, and she published her anti-bullying children’s book Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light in 2013. Engle is a conference speaker, freelance teacher, and writing volunteer at local libraries and elementary school programs, represented by Pam Howell of D4EO Literary. She heads PR at Black Rose Writing, a publishing house in Texas. Follow her newsletter for more great tips here!