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Where do You Get Your Ideas From?

As an author I am asked many questions about my craft.


Is it just a hobby?

How did you get into that?

How much time do you spend writing?

But the most common recurring question is:

Where do you get your ideas from?


It is a question that I doubt any author finds easy to answer, but I will try.


1) Read: I suppose it's time for me to get on my hobby horse: Before trying to write, you should read. When you read you experience the ideas other writers use, the language authors choose and the descriptions and settings that envelope their tales. None of this will directly give you ideas but it will affect your story, and all of it will help you cultivate and tell your own tale.



2) Notebook: Never leave home without a notebook! I have note books scattered around my house with words, phrases and ideas. (Although the one I jotted down at 3am one morning - and so the glove - has not proved useful yet!) You never know when or where you will hear something, see something or think of something that you can work up into an idea for a chapter, a story. a scene or a character.


3) Listen: When you are out, listen to the ladies in the coffee shop, the boys on the train, the men on the building site and the girls at the gym. You never know when someone will utter a phrase or sentence that sparks an idea or triggers a story. Pay attention to the language they use and the words uttered. You think you'll remember them, but you probably won't so, of course, whatever little nugget you hear, write it down.



4) Watch: Pay attention to the people that you see. How do they react to the circumstances you witness? Look at what they are wearing and how they dress for the weather they're experiencing. Think about whether the colours clash. Have you noticed that artificial colours clash but the natural colours of flowers never do? Pay attention to how animals move, how mothers hold their babies and couples clench their fists when they argue. When you notice something interesting or different, write it down.


5) Smell: The sense of smell is one of our most powerful, but it is much under used in fiction. When you enter a shop think about whether you smell the freshly baked bread being sold or the body odour of the person behind the counter. If you go to someone's house for the first time do you smell cigarettes, the flowers in the vase or the new carpet? Think about how that smell makes you feel and write it down.



6) News: Listen to the news. Current affairs will often give you insight into unusual things that happen that you may be able to rework the details and incorporate them into your story. Truth is often stranger than fiction and often a snippet of information can be taken from a news article to illustrate a story. If you come across an interesting, funny, or romantic item in a factual article, that you might want to use again, write it down.



7) Imagine: Authors of fiction do require a good imagination, so although many people may tell you to write what you know, but if you plan to write historical fiction, sci-fi or fantasy, that won't work well for you! So you need to imagine your characters, their surroundings and their reactions to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Use your notes from all the information you have written down earlier!


8) Research: Depending on the story or genre you want to write you will require to do more or less research. Your investigations may give you ideas for a scene, a manner of speaking, an outfit your character might wear or how they get from one place to another. If you are not writing about what you know, research is essential. The internet is often a false friend, so look up a book or article written by a reputable source. Of course, if all else fails, ask an expert and however you get your information, write it down.



To conclude, I will say that for me, writing is not a hobby, it is my job. I got into writing when my husband challenged me to write a book while I recovered from cancer. I spend approximately four hours a day writing, six days a week. I love writing and am always thrilled if I hear that a reader has enjoyed one of my books.


As to where I get my ideas from simply anywhere and everywhere. A casual comment, the scent of Spring flowers, designer clothes in an airport or the outfit of a young woman standing on a railway platform. Equally a dream or an imagined event may provide the source of a scene.


I wish you well with your writing however and from wherever you get your ideas.



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