Can lowly little Charlene Smith, ordinary homemaker, write a best seller? Do authors have to lead adventurous, exciting lives like lawyers or doctors to become successful writers?
No, we do not have to lead exciting lives. However, we do need a good imagination and good ideas. So where do writers come up with ideas for their stories?
For starters, we need to write about things we enjoy. Skateboarding, bike riding, hiking, bowling- even cars are potential articles or stories. What if a hiker finds a dead
Look around you, what do you see? Right now, I see a room with a computer, printer, and a scanner. But it is not just a room, it is a potential setting for a story. Now lean back and really look at the room. My walls are pewter blue - a cream-colored shade covers the window. If I were writing a story, I would elaborate on this through my character. Everything around us has potential, if we chose to look at it with a writer’s eye.
Think about being stuck in traffic. What do you usually do? Turn up the radio, call someone from your cell phone, and tap the steering wheel impatiently? Next time turn that negative energy into something positive. Who's in the car next to you, behind you? Where is that carload of kids off to, a soccer game, Grandma’s house? Look at the driver, what is she feeling, sitting there with a car full of kids bouncing around and jumping. Her mouth moving. Is she yelling, singing, playing a game with them. How about that young couple next to you, are they in love, arguing? Put them in a scene - make up a story about them. That isn't just a car full of kids, or a young couple. You're not just stuck in traffic, or standing in line at a supermarket. You're viewing potential characters, ideas, scenes, making up plots. Look in the carts of people around you. Are they buying that wine and cheese for a rendezvous, celebration? Every place you go look for the potential setting for a story, everyone you see is a potential character.
Check out the daily newspaper. Many articles give me ideas for my next plot. Maybe the bank robber will make a good character for your villain. But don't stop there, look in the classifieds? Under help wanted ads, you might find different and unusual occupations for your characters. Then there are the business opportunities and legal notices. I found an interesting Notice regarding a Public Hearing on the merits of designating several old schools in the area as city landmarks. This piqued my interest since I attended two of those schools. It could lead to a possible setting for a story or maybe an article about a trip down memory lane.
Last, but not least read the for sale ads. Every conceivable item is for sale from antiques to stereo equipment. I particularly enjoy looking through the jewelry section. One ad for a diamond engagement ring valued at three thousand dollars was listed as a must sell for twelve hundred. The ad raised my curiosity. I figured it was for sale becauseof a broken engagement, but then I thought what if the woman’s husband died leaving her penniless, and she desperately needed money for medical bills. More interesting to me was the thought of who would purchase the ring. What man would buy a second hand ring, albeit a good deal, for his new fiancee. Then I thought maybe he took it to a jeweler and had the diamond put into a new setting. What would happen if the fiancée found out she had a used diamond. Would she think what an ingenious idea or would she be angry? All this from a one-line ad. The newspaper is an excellent source for ideas.
Mary Rosenblum, Author of several novels, Instructor and Web Editor at Long Ridge Writers Group says. “Whenever I’m researching a community as a setting for a mystery or contemporary piece, I always pick up copies of the local paper, and yes, I turn right to the classifieds. Who is selling what and for how much? Farmall tractors? Six bottom plows? Must be a farming community. Spray equipment, apple boxes? Orchards. What are the housing prices like? Is this the overpriced bedroom community for ski resort? Are houses with an acre or so of land dirt cheap? Nobody’s working! You can take the pulse of a community with the ads in that paper.”
Magazines are another good source for ideas. Open it to any page, look at the pictures, even the advertisements - see an attractive woman or a couple. Imagine them in a scene. Create a plot around them.
Last, but certainly not least, is our author friends. Many times, I got an idea for an article, just from our daily conversation. Today the subject of being the only one who managed to fill the ice cube trays came up. One thing led to another and it turned into an idea for a humorous article.