A question I’m often asked; “How did you think of that for your story plot?” In the search for that unusual ‘never before written’ idea, most writers are sidelined by the idea there just isn’t anything that hasn’t been written before. Their range of inspiration narrows—and they’re convinced all the good ideas have been written. This is a troublesome feeling . . . a struggle for that all moving and exciting vision that will take them to the top. Let me tell you . . . waiting for creativeness to strike won’t write that book. Get off that couch and go out and hunt it down—in unexpected places.
Go to the local shopping mall and listen, watch, if you write suspense take a visual stroll down the list of renown killers and see if they spark an idea, glance through history books if you write 1800s, talk to old people and see if they can catapult an image, prowl the internet, talk to experts in an topic of interest, etc.
We all know the best ideas are those other writers haven’t written about, or haven’t noticed. It may seem daunting – but new ideas are popping up all over the place, and if you’re like me you ask yourself; “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Some authors use the ‘explain common things’ style to get that story plot. They ask experts to explain how ordinary things work, preferably things invisible to the public. For example, how does the railroad system work? What happens to old refrigerators? How do breweries make beer? How can you tell if a person is truly drowning? Why do some women desert their children, isn’t it instinctive for them to protect a child at all cost?
Another way to get ideas is to think about what troubles or baffles you, find out why by interviewing people who have the knowledge you’re seeking. I’ve always wondered if I lived in the 1800s what would my life be like. Housewife or pastor wife, work in a mercantile, live at a fort, live in a booming mining town, a female prospector or a dance hall girl (giggle), which turns out to be a fairly common question.
What if you upset your life and do nothing your ‘daily habits’ dictates. Walk to work instead of drive, go to a different church, listen to different music, dress opposite the norm, etc. Do you think you’ll look at life differently? Will you react to people differently?
I know this will be hard for those shy people, strike up conversations with people you don’t know, even cultivating the ‘strange-types’ you wouldn’t ordinarily chat with. Introduce yourself to people in the grocery lie or sitting next to you in church, or someone interesting in the airport waiting for their flight. What about striking up a conversation with people carrying a sign or wearing a name tag?
Accept any piece of paper handed to you on the street and start reading junk mail. Watch TV shows you usually can’t even stand the advertisements. Ask yourself why would they appeal to anyone?
My favorite of all - role-play as someone whose viewpoints differ from yours. I once put on a set of headphones and tried reading lips and understanding what it is like to be deaf. It was beyond a learning experience.
The purpose behind all this is these methods jar you out of your norm, and that’s where the writing ideas are, hiding in plain sight.