Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Great Beginnings

Before you put a pen to paper, before you create your first character, before you do the first iota of research or choose your book's setting, you need a great idea to kick things off.

People ask me all the time where I get ideas and how I insure that they’ll keep coming. Sadly getting ideas are the easy part; cultivating them and turning them into gold is the tough part.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere. The trick is to recognize them when you see them. I get a lot of ideas from dreams. Most of my dreams are like yours——confusing, haphazard little snippets that fly out of my head the instant I awake. But occasionally I’ll dream gold. My husband recently dreamed an entire book idea from beginning to satisfying ending. The eight-page outline I wrote after he told me the dream is a long way from ready for the bookstore shelf, but it’s got potential written all over it.

Chatting with girlfriends is another foolproof way to get ideas. I have a particular friend whose life is chock full of drama. I have written——and sold——several short stories, and created characters for my novels from stories of friends of her friends of her friends. This technique for sparking ideas is also an interesting way to spend an evening at a not-so-interesting office party.

Keep your ears open.

Lastly to be discussed here, is everyday life. I’ve gotten several ideas during daily walks with my dogs. I clear my mind, pay attention to the world around me, and am amazed at the ideas those walks spark. While walking along the road one evening I imagined what would happen if a car didn’t make the turn and ran into me.

Then I wondered what would happen if the car hit me intentionally and tried to make it look like an accident. Who would want to hit a seemingly ordinary housewife? Do I have a stalker? Do I have a secret life my friends don't know about? Was it a case of mistaken identity?

The possibilities for these questions are endless. Try it sometime. Ask yourself "What If" about a seemingly mundane task you perform on a regular basis. How could that become the starting point for a work of fiction? These games are fun and often productive.

Give it a try and see what happens.

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