Solve a Problem
Some people look at books as a tool to solve a problem. If that’s your view, then your idea should come from trying to solve an issue. Take bullying for example. If you want to solve bullying for a child or their parents, first do some research about why bullying happens. Talk to parents. Brainstorm about your own experiences. Read other books on the subject. Research will help you discover the “hooks” of the story and the narrative threads that you can later pull to create your work.
Tell a Story That Has to be Told
While some people look at stories as a tool to solve a problem, others look at them as ways to transfer personal meaning. They have a story or an idea that has to be told, no, it needs to be told. Stories that need to be told come from our own personal desires to express the meaning behind the story. Stories of dealing with the loss of love can come from our own heartache. These stories are often times a form of therapy for the author and as such become very personal through the course of writing (and can lead to a lot of pain if criticized improperly.) Personal stories require personal research. You need to explore where the idea came from, how those events effected you, and what you want to tell the world you learned from going through it. Remember that a lot of what you may have to say has already been said, and that’s okay, we often times don’t write to break new ground, we write to let others know that they’re not alone.
Follow a Trend
Some people write for money (shocking, I know.) If this is your reason for writing, and I don’t judge you for this in a capitalistic society, you’re in for a difficult ride. Right now Disney’s Frozen is still tearing up whatever charts its content happens to fall on, so if you were to word-map popular phrases “Sister” and “Princess” would be at the top of the list. So it would be safe to assume that writing a book called “Sister Princess” would get you to the top of the sales charts easily. Well, not exactly. The danger of following trends is that they are trends because everyone else is also chasing them. If you are determined to write for the market, instead go searching for books and categories that don’t have as much competition. In other words, look for books that people want but don’t have.
Some people get their ideas from observing the world around them. These ideas can be great but often times need elaboration to make them satisfying. If something interests you, say a person you see grabbing french fries out of the bin at a food court, explore why you were interested in them in the first place. What would make someone grab food out of a trash can? Were they poor? No, they were too well dressed for that. We’re they cheap? The woman who looked like his wife seemed agitated, so maybe. What must their home look like? Was he just forgetful? Where else would this behavior come from? What if he went to church? Oh! What if he put twenty in the collection plate at church but only meant to put ten, so he went to the other end of the row and took out money from the collection plate? Now we’re getting somewhere!
Reality leads to characters and characters lead to stories. Observe them and ideas will come.
That Nagging Feeling
I find that my best ideas are the ones that I write down and then forget about. The good ones seem to bubble back up and bother me until I get fed up and write them away. If you are flooded with ideas, and what a blessing that is, put them in a notebook and let them rest for a while. Come back to them later and find out which ones are happy to see you again. Those will be your best ideas.
These four examples are just a tiny selection of the endless ways ideas can come to you. What’s important is to capture those ideas when you have them. Once captured, think of them as seeds that need to germinate. Seeds that you care for until the plant grows.
Continue to Part 2