January 20, 2011

Developing Your Writing Ideas

Writers seem to instinctively gather ideas and impressions from everyday life, but how do they develop their story ideas? It really is as personal as a writers style. Some writers are always looking for new ideas and others have so many ideas that they don't know which one to write first.

Do you find that some ideas seem to develop easier than others? Sometimes my mind is like a sponge soaking up more than I can handle and other times my ideas lead me nowhere and leave me feeling frustrated. The best way to catch and develop an idea before it escapes your mind is to keep a notebook. This way you can record your ideas whenever or wherever they may happen.

The power of observation is an incredible tool for your writing. An intriguing person may walk past your house every morning and give you ideas for a character in your book. The way he/she walks, dresses, interacts with people in the street, any quirks you observe. You may not use your ideas immediately but you can refer to them later.

You'll find that your ability to absorb and record details will improve and you'll be on the look out for more. Use all of your senses, what do you feel, hear, see, smell, and taste? These are the details that are worth recording and make your story feel authentic.

Many writers create picture boards with photos of what they think their character looks like, places they visit and live, and any paraphernalia to understand their character.

Be open to borrowing other people's ideas. I don't mean plagiarise, but as you may have heard, there aren't any new story ideas, there's only a new way of telling your story. Every writer uses their own unique voice to express themselves.

I once developed an idea from one of my favourite fairy tales. I liked the rhythm and moral of the story. Needless to say, it ended up completely different from the fairytale, but my initial idea came from remembering what books I enjoyed as a child.

Here's some more ideas:

*Read! Read! Read! Anything and everything in the genre that you're writing. This isn't to steal other writers ideas, it's to learn what works and what doesn't. By analysing other books, you're effectively shaping up your competition and improving the quality of your own writing.

*Brainstorm. This seems to be effective for some writers. You don't have to limit yourself to just words you could also draw pictures.

*Write on small pieces of paper, some conflicts, problems, and dilemmas for your characters. Put them in a hat and pull out an unexpected conflict for a character and see how they cope.

* Write a journal of your life experiences. If you're writing for children, then write about what you feared when your were a child, what games you played, who you played with, any memories that you could develop into an interesting picture book.

* Write your plot including acts and scenes on pieces of paper. Mix them up and change there order. Maybe the first scene should be at the end or vice versa.

*Rewrite a scene in your story like a movie script. Does your character sound authentic? Would they speak like that? Do their body movements, expressions, and tone, fit with their dialogue?

*Write a sensory journal. Record how something smelt, tasted, or felt. Think about the different ways you could describe a trip to the beach. It just might help you the next time you're trying to describe how your characters feels about their world.

*Make a character profile of each of your characters. Their age, sex, where they live and work, etc. Include valuable information that makes you character stand out.

*If you're stuck for ideas then go for a walk or visit a place your character would love or hate.

*Give your story a break and do something for yourself. Maybe a serendipity moment will present itself and you'll put three or four ideas together.

*Read your story to a friend or ask them to read your story aloud to you. Listen to the rhythm. Do they stumble? Is it clear?

*Record your story onto an Ipod or Dictaphone. You could do this for scenes you aren't sure about or you think need more work. Play it back and see if something doesn't sound right. This method can be used as another form of editing.

*Choose one of your ideas to develop and commit to it. If you are unsure which idea to start first then go with the one that grabs you the most. I had this issue myself where I couldn't settle with just one. The problem with this is that the idea is only a beginning and the story won't develop on its own.

Good luck with developing your writing ideas. Remember an idea is only a starting place. It's the way you tell the story which makes you stand out as a writer and makes editors take notice.

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