While the debate over whether writer’s block actually exists or not continues, the subject of where ideas come from remains of interest to many writers (as a glance through the inspirational writers’ section of any book-store will show). I always think that, when you’re writing stories you are essentially accessing the body of experience that is out there in the world (that you’re a part of), all the personal anecdotes that people have experienced, all the trials and tribulations, and to select from these not just the most entertaining but the ones that speak the greatest truth – that are recognised by any race, gender or era as being empirically true. Looking for material (especially if it’s for short stories or poems) can be helped by looking in the right places. Here’s just a few of the ideas I’ve used in the past, and that I think might work for you if things get a bit, erm, blocked:
- Inspirational quotations: These are a good way to pick up on universally true themes for your writing. The ones that offer a potential storyline should leap out at you for plot potential rather than being simply inspirational. How about this; “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” – Sigmund Freud. Who (apart from Freud) might say such a sentiment? Why do they feel that way? What’s their story?
- Famous models: If their words don’t inspire you, how about the famous themselves? What might Hemingway have done on a day off (?), how about Katherine Hepburn, or Elvis? Whatever story you produce can be relabelled and refashioned into ‘a day in the life’ of any writer, actor or singer, or left as is.
- Problem (agony aunt) pages: These should be fairly obvious in terms of providing an idea for a story, just remember to change the names for the sake of the innocent ;-). You may (or may not) feel guilty about plumbing the pain of others for your personal gain, but just think of it – you may be helping mankind into the bargain by writing about the problem – or maybe I’m covering for you.
- Dialogue, be it from soaps, novels or song lyrics: Just a phrase now for inspiration (we don’t want to be treading into plagiarism territory here), but sometimes the odd generic phrase will be enough for you to branch off into a completely different (and legal) train of thought.
- Photos as inspiration: If pictures paint a thousand words…why not use them!
- Joke of the Day: That funny punch line could spark an idea for a comic piece; remember it doesn’t have to be the funniest joke ever, mildly amusing is fine so long as the story speaks to you and you can back the characters. This offering courtesy of Readers Digest; “I was in the car park when I saw a guy off CrimeWatch who was wanted for several assaults. I punched him and wrestled him to the ground, but the police arrived and arrested me. Apparently, they use actors in the show”. Not sure about the hilarity value but as the potential for a short story? Maybe you could do something with it…
- Prompts taken from everyday situations: He was left in the lurch, next on the news…, she had an appointment with…, they’re not as innocent as they seem, the payphone was out of order…
- Phrases, adages, maxims: Waste not want not, a bad penny always turns up, it takes two to tango, no smoke without fire.
But remember whatever ideas come your way, write freely, write with passion and for goodness sake, enjoy it! And it’s over to you! If you’re feeling stuck for inspiration why not try out some of these ideas. Let me know how you get on and I’ll include a link to your work so others can see what you did, a bit like a bloggish fridge door 😉
Keep smiling and stay awesome guys.