In recent months there have been several posts, in blogs, on social media, in discussions, etc., regarding where authors may find story ideas. Naturally, all authors are grateful for any recommendations however, whether they realise it or not, they already have a treasure trove to hand. Everyone, author or not, creates new memories each day. Some good, some not so good, others indifferent, nevertheless, they are all valid, and real. These could be: simply enjoying a peaceful scene on a warm summer’s day; observing a conflict between fellow commuters; watching children at play; taking in a news item; and so on. Even where there is some similarity, everyone’s life is actually unique and different as are the majority of their experiences and viewpoints.
Whether a writer of fiction or non-fiction authors, consciously or sub-consciously, draw information and ideas from their own lives, experiences and observations (from their memories). This is a fact many probably overlook or, in some instances, deny. Even fantasy may have its roots in a one of these. Of course, this is not to deny the viability and value of imagination. But those who benefit from such are rarely in need of story ideas, they will more than likely have more than they can cope with. This discussion is aimed at those who struggle for ideas; who have not been blessed with active imaginations; who do not, initially at least, feel they have anything to share. Naturally, research, especially for non-fiction authors, and sometimes authors of fiction, is valuable if not vital.
‘Something, usually written, that helps you to remember something.’ (Cambridge Dictionary)
Many authors will confess ideas and developmental thoughts frequently arise at most inopportune moments, including the middle of the night when they are trying to get some well earned rest. It is also a fact most people lack a readily retentive memory. Consequently, many good ideas are lost altogether or lack their initial vitality when the author attempts to recall them. Essentially, this article is about how to overcome such losses.
As mentioned above ideas, events, observations, etc., may occur at any time. It is therefore sensible for the serious author to have some means of recording these constantly to hand.
- Notebook and pen or pencil: (Some have developed their own shorthand but it is not necessary to have done so.)
- Smartphone: (Most modern smartphones have a notepad and dictation facility.)
- Electronic tablet: (Again most include a notepad and dictation facility and of course document creation software.)
- Dictaphone: (Not used very much these days but for those who have never encountered them it is a small recording machine.)
Some authors also use smartphones and tablets to send themselves e-mails and texts of their ideas, thoughts and observations.
Events and Experiences
It is not enough to just record bare facts e.g. ‘I stubbed my toe.’; ‘Clive and Andrea had an argument.’; ‘Watched a sparrowhawk catch it’s lunch.’; etc. To be of real use the note should include:
- Psychological impact;
- Emotional response;
- Physiological damage (where relevant).
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. For example: the occurrence could impact how the author will view future decision making. However, in principle, most of the repercussions will fall under one or more of the above.
In the past it was common practice for people to keep a diary within which they recorded each days activities and experiences. Though not so popular today, it may well be worth a consideration because in a lot of instances these have provided the material for many books.
Ideas and thoughts
Authors minds are constantly active, both consciously and sub-consciously, with ideas upon:
- How to enhance that niggling stubborn paragraph.
- How to carry a plot point forward.
- How to incorporate a sub-plot.
- How to enhance a character’s description.
- A new concept.
- A new story idea.
Each person is unique and different and will have their own thoughts and ideas nevertheless, the majority will undoubtedly fall within the above parameters.
Sometimes it may be sufficient to just record the framework of an idea though for some, who know their recall limitations, it may be wise to include more detail.
Whether they believe it or not, all authors have a cache of resources within themselves. They just have to look within.
Life is full of experiences from which ideas may be drawn.
The wise author always has a means of recording events, thoughts and ideas constantly with them.
This is a brief, non-exhaustive article upon the topic but it is hoped it will prove useful to some, especially those new to authoring.
Please feel free to add a comment with any additional ideas which could assist authors further.