Gathering Ideas

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Gathering Ideas

Before we can flesh out a concept, we need an idea that sparks our imagination. Ideas come from the things we experience or are curious about. Feed your creativity—and your soul—by trying new things, meeting new people, and asking lots of questions. Don't turn down an invitation to go parachuting, for example, or to spend a day tracking a paramedic.

A fellow writer once told me that he made opportunities to learn something new each and every day. If he took a cab, he'd interview the cabbie in detail. How long were his shifts? What happened when a customer didn't pay? Had he ever been robbed? He did this even if he wasn't currently writing about a cabbie. He'd simply tuck his notes away for future reference.

Anything, no matter how banal, can serve as a springboard for a story, so become observant in all that you do. Collect ideas every day. Jot down story plots, character descriptions, places you've seen, things you've read about, or snippets of dialogue you've overheard. Try capturing a person's speech pattern and choice of words. Look up new words you learn. "I like to cut out pictures from magazines," says screenwriter and documentary filmmaker Lindsay Norgard. "This helps me capture a mood or a character."

Always carry paper and pen, a tape recorder, or a camera on you. We absorb so much each day that unless we record it, we'll forget. I use a filing card system so I can separate my notes. For example, if I meet a witty woman at a dinner party, I'll note her snappy dialogue on one card, her physical description on another, and the dinner setting on a third. When I get home, I file my notes under broad categories: plot, dialogue, character, situation, setting, and title. This allows me the freedom to shuffle and combine my ideas as I like, whenever I like.

Each writer has his or her own methods for collecting ideas and brainstorming. Experiment and develop your own.

Check out:
The Writer's Idea Book, by Jack Heffron: A book of over 400 prompts and exercises to get the juices flowing.



7/10/2009 8:03:18 PM
Keeshler Pittman said:

Knowledge is power. Thank you.


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