Are you running out of ideas? Have you ever thought about how writers come up with their ideas for their writing?
You may have browsed writing books and magazines and have been told that an idea comes from an endless list of sources. But how do content creators come up with web content from an idea?
In this article, I will enumerate where most ideas come from. But before doing so, let us see how ideas work by spelling them.
I – Iota of Truth
Always remember, for every idea, absurd or otherwise, there is an iota of truth behind it.
Take for example the idea of Superman. Clark Kent may be an alien who grew up on Earth, an idea that may be far from the truth. But there is a scientific truth behind clairvoyance, intuition, and other extrasensory human powers that were magnified in the Superman story.
Truth is relative. So what may be the truth for you may not be an acceptable truth to others. Do not fret. You do not need to please everybody with your content. Just believe that your idea has an iota of truth in it.
So have that idea ready and let’s move on to…
D – Development
Of course, we have entertained so many ideas in mind that we do not know which to choose. They say that there are only eight stories in the world. If that’s the case, then mix and match and see if the idea works.
If you look at stories, books, and movies, you would notice that most of them combined an idea or two from some old stories, books, and movies, too.
So now that you have developed an embryo, let’s try to…
E – Experiment
How are you going to express the idea?
The format — be it prose or poetry, novel or screenplay, full-length movie or short film, comics or painting — depends on your choice. Experiment with how you would present the idea.
Some stories are better on film, some in print, and some made well in both. Trust your gut feeling when experimenting. Not only on the format but also on the way it is presented. Would you go linear — beginning, middle, end? Or would you go a la Quentin Tarantino style — middle, end, beginning, middle? Would you present it in the first-person point of view or the third-person point of view?
Do not be afraid to experiment.
And now we go to the…
A – Application
At last, you have decided on what you plan to do with the idea. The last step is to apply the idea by writing. Once you see the words appear on paper, you will see and feel how the ideas take shape into a good yarn of a story. Write everything down first. Revisions and editing would come later.
Creating content is sculpting. Starting with a large chunk of wood and slowly carving out the unnecessary parts to form the best art.
“Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.”– Louis L’Amour
One of the overused questions asked of writers is where their ideas come from. It may be too trivial, or too basic, but too important not to be ignored.
Writers, like other artists, maximize the use of their five senses and translate them into their art. Writers, like other artists, are keen observers. So keen that they know what color is on top of the traffic light, how many tines are there in a fork, or what is inscribed at the bottom of a paper bill — simple, everyday objects that seem too obvious for ordinary people to take notice of.
Aside from the use of the senses, here are other sources of ideas:
The old-fashioned broadsheet or tabloid is still a good source of story ideas. Scan the news and even the other parts of the newspaper like the classified ads, obituaries, or local feature stories. You’ll get an idea or two to jump-start a story or an article.
For example, an article about a female college student/prostitute who killed her “sugar daddy” gave me an idea for a scene I wrote a few years back.
The glossy magazines feature different kinds of stories, so varied that some of these magazines became specialized or focused on a particular niche. Scan the stories, even the fillers or advertisements, you’ll get some catchy phrases and intriguing ideas to add to your writing.
Many years ago, while I was browsing a magazine, I saw this blurb of a novel that intrigued me. I used that as an idea for Si Aling Mameng, a comics I wrote for Abante Komiks.
Another example is a short story about an infant left inside a grocery store that triggered my imagination to write a screenplay entitled, Sa Pagtuwid ng Kamalian. Later, I converted this screenplay into a novella.
Reading not only hones your vocabulary skills but also inspires you to write your next story. You might even think to yourself, “You know what? I could have written this.”
For example, reading a not-so-familiar paperback plus a famous book many years ago inspired me to write my novel, Number One Fan.
The lives of other people show us how was it living in their own time. We get to see not just a character but also a lifestyle different from ours. Somehow their lives inspire us to write a story for others to learn from.
Stories and Legends
There are some stories that keep on burning or don’t die. People remember or mention them repeatedly. Folklore, fables, and even urban legends could be an inspiration for your next creative output.
For example, I’m intrigued with the mystery surrounding Mount Banahaw — why is it regarded as a mystical mountain of healing?
Believe it or not, dreams could also be a good source of story ideas. I always have a small notebook and pen at my bedside to jot down the things I remember from a dream.
My husband told me about his weird dream and one line of dialogue became my inspiration for a comics manuscript I’m planning to write.
I used to write down nice phrases that came from songs. I have a notebook where I collect these phrases.
For example, the lyrics of Randy Crawford’s “People Alone” inspired me to write I’m Greg, Short For Gregarious.
TV and Movies
Watching television and movies also provides good ideas. Most of the time, what we’re seeing are adaptations or a mixture of ideas from past works.
However, when trying to get inspiration from a television show or a movie, try not to get the heart of the story to avoid being accused of plagiarism.
By Asking “What if?”
Asking this question somehow challenges you to provide possible answers and in the process creates a possible story. It’s okay if you find yourself asking a ridiculous “what if?”. More often than not, you’ll be able to produce a creative work of art.
Eavesdropping for the sake of getting ideas? Why not? This used to be an exercise during the screenplay writing workshop I attended back in 1999. The idea was to write down observations around you including overheard remarks. This exercise will train you to learn the characters and patterns of dialogues.
Once I got an idea, I put them down in writing. As a writer, I should not rely on memory because there are times memories fail. A writer is a journalist and therefore should have a handy notebook and pen to jot down these ideas that burst abruptly.
Now, it is your turn. Go get yourself a notebook for the sole purpose of jotting down ideas. The size and thickness should suit your need and desire. I suggest that you put tabs to separate different sources or categories. Make it a habit to write it down and don’t let it escape your memory.
If you already have an idea that you would like to write, go ahead. If you think there’s a truth in it, and you can develop it, then don’t be afraid to experiment and express it in writing.
Let me know if you have done this and how did it work for you. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please subscribe and join the tribe.