Getting Ideas for Your Fiction from Everyday Life

Sorry I’m late posting today! My sister and parents came to visit and ended up staying longer then I expected. Then, my son didn’t fall asleep until after two last night, and then still work up several times. We all ended up sleeping until 11:30 this morning, which is the latest my son has ever slept. I literally have not slept that late in over three years!


Anyway, at one point during the night, my son woke me up in the middle of a dream. I don’t know about you, but I am lucky enough to have full, cinematic dreams. Last night’s was an urban fantasy, cast with famous movie actors! It’s one of the best ideas I’ve had in a long time, and I can’t wait to start writing it. So, despite the fact that it was 4 in the morning, and really, really cold in the house, I got up out of bed and wrote the whole idea down. I was thanking myself this morning, because I could hardly remember it in the hard glare of late morning sunlight! Here are some tips for getting (and remembering) ideas for your fiction.


1. Keep a pad of paper and pen by your bed so you can write down ideas from dreams, or ideas you get while in that fuzzy space between being awake and asleep. I get TONS of my ideas from that magical time!


2. If you absolutely cannot drag yourself from bed, then make up a mnemonic device to remember your idea. You remember those from school, don’t you? Say I have an idea about fairies attacking Brooklyn. I might make up a mnemonic device like this “farts and burps.” Yeah, it’s not pretty, but you want something you’ll remember in the morning. That’s why I don’t use just the letters, like “roy g biv” for the colors of the rainbow. They’re just too hard to remember.


3. If an issue is really bothering you, try to think up a story about it. Say you’re really mad about the worker’s right to form unions being stripped from them by your state’s government. You might decide to write a story where fairies are enslaved and forced to work in a factory, manufacturing fairy dust until the magic of their souls is drained. Then, one of the fairies might start a revolt, leading to the unionization of fairies to demand better rights. (Not my best idea, but I needed an example!) Lots of my story ideas revolve around things that happen in my life that really make me angry.


4. Play the “what if” game. Take a good piece of diaologue, or a spark of a character, or a vibrant snippet of setting, and just keep asking “what if” questions. What if she had a physical deformity no one could see? What if the land in the story had its own magical powers? What if she fell in love, and then her true love betrayed her? You get the idea.


5. Once you have a character, just ask yourself what you would like to see happen in a story about her. Write the story you’d like to read. DO NOT write something because you think it will sell well, or because you think editors will buy it. I’ll say it again, because it is so important; write the story you’d like to read.


6. Say you read a novel by someone else, and you really liked the premise of the novel, but not the direction in which he took it. Feel free to write your own story, taking the premise in the new direction. Fairy tales are especially good for this; how many retellings of Beauty and the Beast are there out there? (I like Rose Daughter and Beauty, both by Robin McKinley. They’re the absolute best!) Make sure you make it different enough so it is YOUR OWN story. DO not plagiarize.




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