WRITING AND IDEAS

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Hi SEers! Denise here to talk about where ideas for stories come from and how to find them. Here’s the definition of idea.

“noun

any conception existing in the mind as a result of mental understanding, awareness, or activity.

a thought, conception, or notion: That is an excellent idea.

an impression: He gave me a general idea of how he plans to run the department.

an opinion, view, or belief: His ideas on raising children are certainly strange.

a plan of action; an intention: the idea of becoming an engineer.

a groundless supposition; fantasy.”—dictionary.com

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Where do some well-known authors believe their “thought, conception, or notion” originates from to create a story?

I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it’s seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question ‘What if?’—Stephen King

I have a friend, Frank Redman, who’s contending bravely with brain cancer. I wanted to know more about gliomatosis cerebri, the cancer he has, and as I was reading about it, I suddenly had the idea for a novel…Dean Knootz.

Take your real-life experience or that interesting idea you heard on the news. Ask yourself two questions: “Suppose …?” and “What if?” By doing so, turn a real-life story into fiction. That was the second bit of advice that my professor gave us. I’ve been doing exactly that for years.—Mary Higgins Clark

I wish I knew. They just seem to come from nowhere.Michael Criton 

‘I make them up,’ I tell them. ‘Out of my head.’Neil Gaiman

Dwell in possibility.—​Emily Dickinson

Sometimes the ideas just come to me. Other times I have to sweat and almost bleed to make ideas come. It’s a mysterious process, but I hope I never find out exactly how it works. I like a mystery, as you may have noticed.J.K. Rowling

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Fifteen Ways to Find That Story Idea

  • Watch the news
  • People-watch
  • Listen to music
  • Find an intriguing setting
  • Use real-life experiences
  • Take a writing class or learn a new skill
  • Books, blogs, or magazines
  • Spend some time in nature
  • Do writing challenges or prompts
  • Get inspired by images or artwork
  • Travel and explore our world
  • Keep a diary of your dreams
  • Journal
  • Embrace that inner child by daydreaming or playing
  • Research

Taking ideas from these areas and putting that what if that many authors mention can ignite an idea seed that can grow into a story.

What about you? Where do your ideas come from?

85 thoughts on “WRITING AND IDEAS

  1. Pingback: WRITING AND IDEAS – CREATORS COMMUNITY

  2. Thanks for sharing this! Interesting to hear from well known authors about their source of inspiration. I wrote a blog about mine, called “The Spark of Writing Ideas,” if you’d like to check it out.

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  3. Those quotes are awesome, Denise. I really like Criton’s. Lol. Ideas tend to pop into my head as a result of a conversation in blog comments, believe it or not. Others come from images. And others I do have to pull from the atmosphere as they fight to get away. A fun post to think about. Thanks

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    • Thanks, Diana 🙂 I think Criton sums it up pretty well. I can see getting ideas from blog comments, although I’ve never had luck with that, I think it’s pretty interesting you have! Images do offer a lot to get the creative process going, those we have to fight to hold on to can be a bit challenging. However, we get there it’s nice to be inspired in some way.

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    • Thank you, Cathleen 🙂 That’s an intriguing way to start with the character first since I’m the opposite usually start with the situation and I get to know the character as I go. That is a good issues for a character to have and definitely works well in your stories.

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  6. I agree with Jacquie that it’s not hard to get ideas, but it takes time to expand the concept. King and Clark have good ways to utilize ideas also. We could take one or two to three ideas, real or imaginary, and create new stories. Great post for thought, Denise! Thank you for sharing!

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    • Thank you, Miriam 🙂 Yes, Jacquie was right about trying to make a single idea big can be a challenge. I like the what-if way King and Clark look at life for writing and it’s sure worked for them. Combining ideas can make for a real layered story if it all fits together.

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  7. This is a fantastic article, Denise. I agree with so many of this avenues for being inspired. They truly can come from anywhere! And the quotes from authors was a lovely touch. I’m partial to Emily Dickinson myself. 😉

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  8. This is an interesting post, Denise. Some authors have a writing idea generation strategy like Mary Higgins Clark and Stephen King and others don’t. I suppose everything in life is like this, some people plan and some don’t. Some people brain storm and some don’t. I never brain storm, even at work.

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    • Thank you, Robbie 🙂 True that some need to put the work into ideas and others it seems to come to. You are right some people are planners and brainstormers while others aren’t. I’ve done both but it’s more natural things just come to me.

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    • Thank you, Michele 🙂 That is a fascinating way to what if using names! There are some great names that aren’t being used now but I think should be. Happy inspiration.

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  9. I never quite know where my ideas come from. I’m usually thinking about something else, and a random thought intrudes. If I’m lucky, it wants to be heard enough, it keeps pestering me. And then it makes itself at home and grows. I loved the quotes from writers we know. It’s sort of a nebulous process.

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    • I love those random thoughts that want to make themselves known and grow, Judi 🙂 It is a kind of a journey and I love learning how others get there.

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  10. Hi, Denise! Great post, and I love your list! I believe some of my ideas are divinely inspired, but then, maybe God is the one who gave me an interest in Ancient Aliens and the real mysteries of our planet. Researching an unusual physical anomaly led me to write my first series. Another question that leads to ideas is “What could possibly go wrong?” What a great article to share! Thank you!

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    • Thank you, Patty 🙂 Yes, I think some of it comes from above too. Research does open new doors as does Ancient Aliens! What could go wrong is right in there with my questions.

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  11. You’ve offered a wonderful invitation to consider where these gifted ideas come from, Denise. Truly, your list captures the span very well. Throughout the day, unwritten scenes talk to me, but of course, I often forget about it later. Great post! 😊

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    • Thank you, Gwen:) Part of my wondering includes where it comes from. I love how the unwritten scenes talk to you as a story processes. I’m like that too if I don’t get what I’m thinking about down, I forget. I wonder if those scenes make their way into our dreams?

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  12. A fantastic post, Denise! I loved J.K. Rowlings quote about the mystery of the process. I agree with her. I get ideas from everywhere, but because I listen to a lot of music, I get most of my ideas from songs. It may just be one line or even a short phrase that sparks the imagination. I love your fifteen ways list. Without ideas and inspiration, there would be no stories! Thank you for sharing! Happy Friday!

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    • Thanks, Jan 🙂 I do love the mystery behind ideas and questioning reality. I love you get so much inspiration from music, including your latest fantastic story. I get my inspiration more visually, but you are so right, without inspiration there would be no hours of creating and great reading! Hapoy Friday 🙂

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  13. When I was a little girl, my dad used to tell me to think about the what-ifs and might-have-beens. That’s still my go-to basis for creating stories, but I also develop ideas from things that interest me. I’ll research something to dig deeper into it, then spin a story from it.
    This post definitely makes you stop and think, Denise. We’re so used to just creating on auto-pilot, sometimes we don’t realize where our plots and characters come from. It’s just intrinsic to run with them!

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    • You were so lucky your dad encouraged your creative what ifs and might have beens! That encouragement shines brightly through in your stories. Research is full of possibilities, I agree 🙂 It is fun to stop and think about where it all comes from, but natural to tap into it without a second thought. Thanks, Mae 🙂

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    • The muse filled with ideas is a fun idea within itself 🙂 I’ve had some thoughts that a muse is someone from another dimension sharing their worlds stories with us. But wherever it comes from, I like the mystery to it. Having that quiet moment or space seems to be where all that magic happens. Thanks, Craig!

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  14. That’s a really useful list of activities that could bring ideas. The “embrace your inner child by daydreaming/playing” jumped out at me. The playing part was like a neon sign. For me, it’s a huge part of creativity. To question the notion that things are supposed to be certain ways — which we learn as we grow. To play as if possibilities are endless. These are the gists that I picked up from recently reading the book “Embrace Your Weird” by Felicia Day — which I highly recommend for anyone wanting to become more creative.

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    • Thanks, Dave 🙂 That’s a favorite one of mine embracing that inner child that is still open to the possibilities. I will have to check that book out, it sounds like something I would enjoy!

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    • Definitely not. I’m avoiding the news lately myself…lol. I love your ideas come from song lyrics. They add a mood for me but I’ve never been lucky enough for a story to come through. Thank you, Jill 🙂

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  15. I think if you’re open to it, an idea can spring from anything. One of my favorite ways to spark an idea is to read the short synopses of movies (before I’ve seen them and have my perception influenced). Sometimes I’ll picture an entire tale from that one sentence, and it never resembles what is on the screen. But if my take on it interests me enough, I have a story idea to develop.

    Looking forward to seeing where other people get their ideas. Thanks, Denise.

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    • You make a wonderful point that you have to be open to the ideas first, so true! What a clever way to encourage creativity by reading the synopsis and imagining what the story will be before seeing it. I bet your take has been far more interesting than many movies that recycle tired old ideas. Then to create from that exercise, I love it:) I like to take images and come up with my own idea what us going on. Thanks, Staci!

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  16. As a child I always asked why? … why is the grass green? Why is a spoon a spoon? Etc. As a writer, I’m always asking What if? And best of all, hubby loves playing the What if? Game too. Some of the conversations we end up having! 😂
    Great points and quotes, Denise. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  17. My ideas come from the voices in my head. Lol! My brain is either ruminating on something that has happened or creating scenarios that don’t exist. Sometimes, a new voice bursts through and demands my attention, and a new story is born. I also dream vividly, and some ideas stick with me long enough for me to write them down. That’s how my Diasodz series started. Great post, Denise! I enjoyed seeing how famous authors view their idea-making. 🙂

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    • That sounds very familar, Yvette with the brain running through things that happened or creating scenarios that don’t exist! That cuts into my sleeping more than I’d like… lol. That voice can demand some stories be written and bring mant ideas. I love when ideas come in dreams, and how wonderful your series was born there where all is possible! Thanks, Yvette 🙂

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  18. Pingback: WRITING AND IDEAS — Story Empire – Guam Christian Blog

  19. Hi, Denise! 😊 A lot of my stuff are inspired by real life situations, but I always ask myself what twist I can add to them. Like when I’m in a boring work meeting I ask myself, okay what if I write about a boring work meeting but make it scifi? Something like that 😄

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  20. Pingback: Stop by and say hi! Writing and Ideas. #storyempire #authorideas #indieauthor #writingcommunity – Author D.L. Finn

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