One of the questions I get asked is “Where do you get all of your ideas?” My comment usually includes a laugh and the reply, “How do I stop getting ideas?” When I thought about this topic a little more deeply, I realized I wasn’t being quite fair, especially to beginning writers. I realized that I had trained myself through practice, research, and education to always see possibilities in news stories, overheard conversations, remakes of other things I read, asking what if and just about anything else in my life that might generate a story idea. It is so automatic now that I’m serious when I ask “How do I stop getting ideas?”
Here are a couple of little exercises to help train yourself to notice things that can generate ideas.
1. Listen or watch the news. Ask yourself if your protagonist or your antagonist might have done what was done in a news story.
2. Look back at your life. Ask yourself if there are events that might trigger a story or a scene.
3. Spy on others. Listen as others talk around you in store check-out lines, doctor offices, public transportation, the park and other public places. Keep a notebook or use the notepad on your smart phone to write down conversations.
4. Alter books and stories you read. Think of alternate scenes, endings, or even situations that you could use to generate your own story. Change the gender of characters or the setting.
5. Write some speculative scenes just to see where they might go. Do this at least a few times a week. There are even writing prompts online that you can use to jumpstart yourself.
Practice being “on” all the time, thinking the “what if?” question often, noticing oddities. You’ll start coming up with so many ideas, you won’t have time to write them all down