Writing Prep: Generating creative ideas
If you want to write, but you’re asking yourself, “What should I write about?” we have some suggestions to help you generate creative ideas for writing:
1. Observe. Look at what’s happening around you. Listen to the conversations at the table next to you at the restaurant. Listen to the stories your colleagues tell you at work. Read lots of books, in different genres and voices. It might also help to note down your thoughts and observations in a journal or notebook.
2. Ask follow-up questions. Jump on your train of thought and apply your imagination to your observations. Author Neil Gaiman says that ideas come to everyone all the time, and writers seize them. He suggests asking yourself questions like “What if…?”, “If only…”, “I wonder…”, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if…?” What if you woke up to a stranger in your room, telling you she was from a different time? If only something addictively enjoyable could produce no harm. I wonder why that man loves collecting toy trains. Expand your ideas in your notebook.
3. Let your characters speak to you. Write around your characters so that you write truly in their voices. Sometimes you want to explore certain issues or topics, and characters connect those ideas to tell a special story. Ask yourself this about each of your main characters: “What does your character want more than anything else?” It could be getting that girl/guy to notice her/him, earning back a parent’s trust, or building a house made of cheese. Desire drives the actions and personality of your characters. Stir in some conflict and your plot is coming together!
4. Bounce your ideas off family and friends. Ask them what they think, perhaps providing them with a short free writing sketch of your idea. They may come up with more interesting ways your idea could go, or offer a similar personal experience.
5. Research. Writing outside of your personal experience is the big challenge for writers, and you need to do a lot of research. If you’re writing about a crime in the 1920s, study old newspapers and talk to historians and medical professionals. If you want to write about a different gender, sexual orientation or racial background, here’s where your reading and listening to others’ stories will help. Look for several people from your target group, ask them questions and listen. Your research will likely develop your ideas.
6. Write. And rewrite.
- Baty, Chris. No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. Chronicle Books, 2014.
- Biswas, Damyanti. (2016, May 24). Dear Writers, What Voices Should You Never Write In?
- Chan, Crystal. (2014, Sep 30). NaNo Prep: How to Write About What You Don’t Know. NaNoWriMo Blog.
- Gaiman, Neil. (1997). Where do you get your ideas?
- National Novel Writing Month. (2013, Sep 13). NaNoWriMo Blog.