Thursday, April 19, 2012

Getting Ideas

The number one question authors are asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

Authors know ideas come from everywhere--newspapers, television shows, personal problems, nature videos, friends' dilemmas, magazines, taking a walk through the park, billboards, dreams, books, observing people in the mall, state fairs, traveling. Truly, an idea can strike at any time.

However, not all ideas are worthy ideas--that is, ideas which can be turned into good books.

For example, suppose an author reads a story in a newspaper about a man who comes out of a coma after three months and is able to return to his normal life like nothing happened. This is a terrific news story with lots of human interest, but it isn't a story idea which would translate well into a novel.

However, that doesn't mean this idea should be outright rejected. Instead, an author could expand upon the news story so she could turn the idea into something more promising. Let's give it a try...

What if the man came out of the coma, and he didn't know who he was? Now we have a better story, but it still isn't enough to make the idea worthy of a novel so we'll have to put our imaginations to work and see if we can come up with something more.

What if the amnesiac was a drug dealer who was late delivering a shipment?

What if he was a family man, and his wife didn't know he was involved in anything illegal, and, when the wife claimed him as her husband and he went home with her, convinced he was who she said he was, he thought he must be some Average Joe who worked at a bank (his cover) and had a nice family and a peaceful life?

And what if he got a visit from the woman to whom he was to deliver the drugs, the woman who'd been his lover?

And she threatened his family, his job at the bank and his life if he didn't deliver the drugs--drugs he knew nothing about, only the woman didn't believe he had amnesia? After all, he'd been lying to his wife for years...

And, since readers have to care about this man, what if he believed he was in his heart of hearts the wonderful father and husband his wife said he was, and he chose to be that man, was willing to do whatever it took to redeem himself--but the people from his previous life of criminal activity would in no way let him become the caring family man he wanted to be?

Now we have an idea which can be developed into a novel, but we're still a LONG way from writing the first draft and an even longer way from proving our idea has become something worthy of being read.

Getting ideas for stories is the easy part, probably the easiest part of writing a novel. It's everything that comes after getting an idea that is difficult.


Fran Shaff
Fran's Web Page

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