Where do you get your ideas?
This is a question frequently asked of writers and the correct answer is, that there is a secret shop in the middle of London, hidden down a small alleyway and the door will only open if you use the secret password...
Only kidding. It's not a small shop at all, it's a huge multi-storey place, like Ikea. A place you can get lost in, where there are lots of places to hide, or get lost, or marvel over.
Writers get ideas from EVERYWHERE. They may come as snapshot of a scene, playing out in your mind like a film clip, you might dream it, you might hear a snatch of dialogue whilst out and about and think, "what on earth did they mean when they said that their brother was running away?", you might get an idea sparked by something you saw on television, or read in a paper, or on a news website, or you might even see a great new baby name and that name sparks an idea for a kind of character that no-one has ever written before.
Ideas are everywhere, the way oxygen is everywhere. Well, most places. It's just that a writer's brain thinks about them differently. For example, I was sat outside of my children's school, in the carpark, waiting for them to come out after the final bell. A car parked in front of me, in the rain and the driver got out and hurriedly ran to the boot and opened it up to get something. Non-writers would glaze over and look elsewhere, or maybe even peer interestedly into the boot to see if a) it had anything interesting in it, or b) was messier than theirs, to make them feel better. A writers brain might wonder what would happen if there was a body in the boot? What if they saw someone tied up in there, a piece of tape over their mouths? And why would the abductor have brought a prisoner in the boot of their car to pick up their child from school?
The world is full of what ifs. What if I don't go to work today? What if my flight gets cancelled? What if I end my marriage and run off with the plumber? What if I began pole-dancing lessons?What if I won the lottery (come on, we've all wondered that one!) We all can imagine results to these questions. We can all imagine winning millions and how we would spend it. We need to use that imagination on our writerly 'what ifs' and THATS how we find our ideas.
If you can't think of any ideas, there are even websites now that provide prompts for writers. Use them if you want, but remember, so are other people, so once you've got going writing your scene, maybe change them a little, make them your own.
Most writers advocate having a notepad with them at all times. Some people use the Voice Memo app on their iPhones. Use what works for you. Stood at the ironing board, bored to tears? Use that time to think up a plot, or work out a character sketch. I walk dogs everyday and thats perfect thinking time for wrangling plot problems or for challenging characters who refuse to do what they're told. Use your free time. I had to sit this morning and sew on prefect braiding onto my son's school blazer, but I used it to listen to a podcast about writing and THAT sparked an idea on how to tackle an issue I was having.
Soon, thinking about writing, working out your 'what ifs', finding ideas, will come naturally. You might even find that they come too much! That's good. It's better than no ideas at all!
Your writer mind needs training. You wouldn't start a marathon without preparing for it, why would you try and write a story without prepping too? Maybe you've even got a tried and trusted method of coming up with ideas that hasn't been shared here? Let us know.
Happy thinking time!