Blah, blah, blog, blog.
Writers get asked all the time where we get our ideas. And when we have deadlines looming over us like boogey-men, we ask ourselves this same thing.
Plot, grammar, scenes, dialogue, character creation–the list goes ever on and on down from the door where it began.
But the more time we spend on learning the craft that is writing, and the more sweat we brew sitting and writing, the more readily these things come to us–at home, on the bus, at the mall, in the shower. For me it’s driving, my long commute to work.
The trick is to get those thoughts down in print as fast as you can. Those eureka moments as Larry Verstraete calls them, never present themselves the same again. I’ve learned to record them verbatim immediately. I think writers develop a radar for write-worthy material. Myself, I see things, little by-plays of life when I’m out and about that a lot of others don’t pick up on. (Except for a special friend of mine, who sees the same things and we break into maniacal laughter with a glance at each other.)
These odd occurrences of daily life make for brilliant idea fertilizer. Diving boards, cannons even.
I know an intelligent adult who still says ‘hiveway’ instead of ‘highway,’ another who says ‘breakfRast‘ instead of ‘breakfast,’ and another who throws ‘so’s‘ into every sentence he speaks.
As children, and not so young at that, we would get a kick out of mimicking the habits of the speakers at our open-pulpit church services, aping the way one always fiddled with his glasses, on-off-on-off, or how one fellow stood in a tilted pose with one brown-shoed foot stretched out so far in front of him you’d think it was 10 inches longer than the other. (It wasn’t-we checked.) Furious licking of lips, constant page flipping of their Bible, perpetual runny nose, flaring of nostrils, caterpillar-fuzzy eyebrows hopping up and down–you name every habit and quirk, we missed nothing and blew it out of proportion with glee.
People are really individual, and they do the greatest and awfulest things. The malls are prime proof. Recently out shopping I followed behind a barely average size mother with her 6’3″ tall son walking beside her. I looked down to notice he was avoiding stepping on all the cracks in the tiled floor!!!
And then in the lingerie section I witnessed a young mother with her 12 year old girl and 9 year old son, vainly attempting to shop. The son kept squirming and running across the aisle and goofing around, the mom retrieving and admonishing him. Finally she spluttered loudly from the bra section, “If you don’t settle down and stay here I’ll make you HOLD them!” My, he was obedient after that.
Several simple things can aid us particularly in character creation. Pet peeves for example open unlimited potential. If a character has a phobia of creepy crawlies, think what you can all throw at him to put him ill at ease, or make him react out of character. Or how others can play off him. Nervous habits, limps, lisps, the trembles, a scar or birthmark can provide great distinguishing features for characters.
As you drive or ride the bus, watch out the windows consciously for odd buildings or activities. I have two marvelous places near home that I’m dying to write something smashing about. They are so spectacular in an understated way that it has to be just the right kind of story to bring them alive and do them justice. Yet I drove past them for years without giving them a second glance.
Writer’s radar, it’s great. Ideas are everywhere, we have only to be alive enough to tap into the things we see and hear all around us. Everyone does this differently. I keep snippets–photos or illustrations, singular words or phrases. Lists are a great fingertip boost and I leave you with 2 helpful links.
Awesome potential with this book. “Struggle with how to show, not tell a character’s feelings? Need help creating fresh body language that doesn’t come off as stale or cliché?“
(In pdf or paperback.)