Author’s Corner: Generating Ideas

Generating Ideas

One of the most common questions a published author is asked is “Where do you get your story ideas?

New writers sometimes think ideas are just supposed to pop into an author’s head … or else they use some secret formula. But fully-formed story ideas don’t do that – not usually, anyway. Nor do most established authors have some magic formula.

The truth is they probably already have more great ideas than they could ever write.

Every how-to book on writing will tell you what you need is a solid premise. What they rarely tell you is where this story idea comes from in the first place.

This often causes a great deal of frustration in beginning writers, because of the mistaken belief that the creation of a solid story idea is an event.

Theoretically, I suppose a story popping into the mind of a writer fully formed could happen, but sitting in front of a blank page waiting for inspiration is not a recipe for success.

Coming Up With A Full, Rich Story Idea Is A Process

Herron sits at a table with his books displayed

Author R.L. Herron

The secret to generating ideas is the same “secret” that solves every writing problem: writing itself. You can start with almost anything you find interesting as you go through your daily life. Maybe it’s a location that fascinates you, a likable (or despicable) character you know, a clever line of dialogue you hear, or even a great title.

When things you see or hear give you that little tingle that says there’s something there worth exploring, pay attention and jot it down.

When you sit down later to write, just pick one of your notes and begin writing about it … what it makes you think of, how it makes you feel, what questions it raises … and write fast.

One of the keys to idea generation (and writing in general) is to write as quickly as you can. You don’t want to analyze anything yet. You want volume, varied thoughts, and a wealth of possibilities. Don’t make any decisions; just stay open and receptive to whatever comes. You will be amazed at what’s in your brain just waiting to spill out onto the page.

Don’t try to force your thoughts into a story yet. Keep things loose, and continue asking and answering questions. Feel free to backtrack and choose different answers. In addition, remember to write a lot. Volume is your friend. Ask a question, answer it, repeat.

Keep at it for a few sessions and you will be amazed at the material you’ll generate.

By feeding your brain a fertile mountain of images, characters and possibilities, it goes to work trying to make sense of it all. This process is the truth of where great story ideas come from.

It’s like magic when it happens, and I promise it happens every single time.

When the pros say they have more ideas than they could ever work on in a lifetime they aren’t showing off (well, maybe some of them are … a little), it’s simply that the process of working on one idea always creates new ideas.

That’s the secret to a lifetime of story ideas. Creative ideas.

About R.L. Herron

R.L. Herron, the author of multiple works of fiction, including several Readers' Favorite medal winners, lives and writes in Michigan with his lovely wife, an ugly mortgage, and one extremely large cat. His books are all available on Amazon and online with Barnes & Noble. Visit Author R.L. Herron's Website, Broken Glass.

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