WHERE DO I GET MY STORY IDEAS FROM?
I get this question from readers. I usually say something like “from the aether” or “they just come to me” but I was thinking about it and I wondered, where does creativity come from? Oh, sure I could get all right brain/left brain on you but I won’t. I know children in particular young children have vivid imaginations. Do we lose the ability to think in a creative way as we age? Anyone who doesn’t think they are creative probably had someone in their past whether it was a teacher or a parent/guardian say to them, “Stop daydreaming so much. It’s a waste of time.” But, is it? How many writers stopped daydreaming or thinking about stories? At one point do you stop daydreaming and start writing? I wish I had the answer, but I don’t. I only know that as a young child I found solace in my writing, first in poetry then short stories and finally, novels. I wrote down ideas for stories/poems in a red notebook I kept with me at all times. Snatches of conversations, bits from the news, articles about something interesting, pictures I liked (now I do this on Pinterest), whatever it was that sparked an interest, I wrote it down. In my early days as a writer I used this notebook to help me figure out what to write. But as I got more proficient at writing, I didn’t use it anymore. I wanted to go back and look at it to see what was in it and much to my dismay I couldn’t find it again. I’ve moved many times so it probably got lost in the shuffle. How do I get ideas now? They come to me from the aether. Seriously, I can be reading something or watching something and I ask, WHAT IF. What if he hadn’t opened that door? What if she didn’t send that letter? What if she went left instead of right? What if the alarm clock didn’t go off and you were late for work, got into a minor crash and met the love of your life and then found out he or she only had a few months left to live? What if you didn’t show up at your best friend’s wedding and then found out the guy/girl you’ve had a crush on forever met someone else at the wedding reception and is now getting married? What if faeries are real? What if vampires are? What if you didn’t…whatever….what if you did…whatever? That’s how I get my ideas. I ask the WHAT IF question and then I answer it in my stories. For example, in my latest murder mystery, IF IT’S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE TROUBLE I asked, what if Mel (the main character) couldn’t ever work as a cop again because of her disability? What would she do instead? What if her cop boyfriend moved back in? What if the back surgery she had didn’t work? What if she gets a job in a famous fashion house and actually likes it? What if the killer she seeks focuses on her instead?
So, the next time you are searching for a story idea, look around you and ask WHAT IF, or what would happen if…or what would happen if something else didn’t happen? You will begin to see endless story ideas pop up out of nowhere just like mine do. So when someone asks you, “Where do you get your ideas from?” You can answer, “From the aether.”
Take Care, Until Next Time,
Kathleen S. Allen
IF IT’S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE TROUBLE, the second Mel Thompson mystery , November, 2012
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