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find ideas just by opening your eyes

How do you practice coming up with ideas for fiction?  Here are two tips I’ve learned over the years, which have helped me in my practice.

1)      Be Aware:  Imagine you’re brain’s a Brita-filter.  Every second of every day, our brains process stimuli which we receive from our environment:  the natural world, the people we meet, the media, all of that is part of our environment.  As writers and storytellers, we have all the information we need for coming up with great stories.  It’s just a matter of seeing them.

That squished snail you just stepped on, for example.  The way the grass looked this morning with fog laced through its blades.  The person you just walked past that was in hysterics for having stepped on the snail.  Who among us is completely aware of every little thing that happens to or around us on any given day?  No one.   But maybe we should.

By paying a bit more attention to the world around us,  not only will we feel more alert and tuned-in to this beautiful world, we’ll see something worth writing down.

2)      Ask Questions:  Go through life asking the question “What if?”  “What if there were creatures from another planet?” H.G. Wells might have asked.  “How would they react to humans?  What would they look like?”  See how one question leads to another? And this trick doesn’t just work for fantasy or sci-fi.  Consider Jane Austen:  “What if a snobbish land-owning gentleman fell for a feisty, dowerless girl?” In fiction, anything can happen.  Prod your imagination awake by asking it questions.  Begin by asking, “What if?” and see where it takes you.

As an exercise, think about one thing that happened to you during your day.  It can be anything:  a scene from your day, like a meeting or a coffee break, something someone said, that car that nearly ran you over as you were trying to cross the street, anything.  What “What-if” scenario can you imagine coming from that event?

Here’s an example:  you overhear a snippet of an argument between a man and a woman.  All you catch is the man saying, “What do you mean you forgot to get the dried blood?!”  You know he was probably referring to compost fertilizer, but what if he wasn’t?

But the scenarios don’t have to be that ripe for the pickin’.  With a little bit of prodding, you can turn anything into a story.

Just start asking the questions and let the story unravel from there.

Eileen Hughes goes into more detail about finding story ideas using these two simple ideas.



"The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate -- it is life, intensified, brilliant life." ~ Alain Arias-Misson


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