Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finding Ideas

by Rebecca Talley

I'm often asked how I find ideas  for stories. The answer is: everywhere. I have so many ideas I'm sure I'll never be able to write about all of them. I keep track of them in a notebook, allowing some to simmer in the back of my brain for months or years.

My favorite place to gather ideas is from my own family. This works out especially well when I write for the Friend because the Friend requires that authors submit stories based on true experiences. I've written about getting stuck in the snow and saying a prayer for help, learning to sing a Christmas song in German for a lonely neighbor, and about a child sacrificing a part in a local television production to keep the Sabbath day holy.

My picture book, Grasshopper Pie, was based on an experience when my kids tried to feed me a live grasshopper.

Both of my novels have included experiences from my own life and my current work-in-progress even has snippets of conversations we've had in our home.

Another place to find ideas is in the newspaper. I read a story about a woman whose husband committed suicide. The doctors were able to harvest some of his organs for donors. The gentleman who received the desceased man's heart, wrote a letter of thanks to the widow. After some correspondence, they began a relationship and ended up getting married. Some years later, the second husband also committed suicide in the same way as the first one and the question was posed: "Did the heart remember?"

The idea for Rachel Ann Nunes's novel, Saving Madeline, came from a newspaper story she'd read.

The nightly news can also be a source for ideas. Plenty of conflict dances across our television screens each night as newscasters replay the day's events.

Ideas can come from reading other books and asking, "What if?"

Shannon Hale has been successful at retelling fairy tales and adding new twists.

You can also find ideas by eavesdropping. We were at dinner the other night and at the table next to us a couple in their sixties was discussing their relationship. We were in close proximity and they weren't hushing their voices so it was impossible not to hear their conversation. They were obviously not married, but had dated and were trying to define their relationship. I overheard a few details I didn't want to, but after they left, my daughter played the "What if?" game. She decided they'd been high school sweethearts but had married other people and were now rediscovering their love. I would've guessed they'd met on eHarmony or some such site and were getting to know one another because they'd both lost their spouses. Two completely different stories picked up from the same conversation. Of course, it's rude to eavesdrop, but sometimes it can't be helped and if a great story comes out of it, all the better.

Ideas are literally everywhere and anywhere. If you're stuck, try some of these ways to spark ideas.  


Cindy (C.L.) Beck said...

Great suggestions! Thanks for posting them. I had to smile at the "eavesdropping" idea, since that's the easiest and most interesting way to get ideas!