Lately, on the author live chats on Inkpop (you should check those out sometime! Who doesn’t want their questions answered by an actual published author?), I’ve seen one question come up more than usual:
Mr./Mrs./Ms. Awesome Author, I love your books! How do you come up with such great ideas?
This isn’t an easy question to answer. No two people have the same method for coming up with ideas. If you’re like me, you probably have more ideas than you could write in a few lifetimes. I’m the kind of person who sees something random and says, “Whoa! Inspiration time! Where’s my notebook? I need to write this story!” Seriously. One of my stories was inspired when one of my friends dropped their iPod, and picked it back up again. Another came from looking at a broken plastic mini-hourglass I used to have. For me, the ideas just come.
“But, Annie, I’m not like that! What do I do?”
Well, here are a few methods that might work for you. Again, remember that every writer’s brain works differently.
1. The Dream Method
Did you have a dream last night? A confusing dream? A nightmare? Write it down! Your brain comes up with bizarre things while you’re asleep, and there just might be something story-worthy hidden there. The Twilight saga and Dragons in our Midst/Oracles of Fire were inspired this way.
2. The Nike Method
Just do it. Set a timer for ten minutes and get some paper and your favorite writing utensil. Sit down, start the timer, and just start writing. Write a poem, describe the room you’re in, rant about something, or whatever. It doesn’t have to make sense or be in any logical order. All you have to do is write. Whatever you do, don’t stop putting words down until the timer goes off. Now sit back and read what you wrote. Sometimes once you sift through this randomness, you’ll discover that you just came up with a brilliant idea without realizing it.
3. The Spinoff Method
When you’re reading a novel, do you ever think along the lines of, Wow, this would be so much cooler if the main character/villain/hometown had a sister/disability/violent tornado? When I’m reading, I often think of cool possibilities like that. For some reason, mine often involve giving the main character a twin sister. Then they start to develop their own storylines, and before you know it, you’ve got a great story in your head that has nothing to do with the original book. Just be careful with this, though; make sure that your storyline has completely taken its own path before you write it.
4. The Values Method
What’s important to you? Are you a vegetarian? Are you pro-life? Do you have a passion for skydiving? Maybe you could write a story about it. Why not make up an exciting story about why someone would become a (insert something here)? How does your character come to get these values? For example, if you are pro-life, you could start off your novel with your character being pro-choice. Then you could follow their journey as they start to rethink their values and become pro-life. What life-changing event happened to cause this change?
I hope that helped! Remember: your story is a part of yourself, so nobody can tell it better than you can.