Monday, March 16, 2015

Seeking the Next Best Idea

As the main meal preparer in my household, I repeatedly need ideas about what's for dinner. Once a cook has mastered a few dishes, they branch out, craving variety. For me, I started with a list of favorites that I could refer to and rotate. When those recipes felt stale, I began watching cooking shows or looking in recipe books. Sometimes I experiment. Writers and cooks both need fresh ideas and fresh ingredients.

Let your ideas take a different track.
After we've used the ideas in our back pocket, we seek fresh ones. We might read new authors or genres or watch movies to get inspired. We might brainstorm and keep a notebook of ideas. Sometimes we outright ask for ideas from others. I've used a few ideas from critique group members or gotten my spouses input. If you write for children or teens, ask them what they might do in a situation. Books and people are great resources.

What sparked this post--and I struggle half the time to come up with these ideas--was doing an ordinary task and letting my mind wander. I was bagging leaves in the back yard and set an armful into the bag. A few of them floated away, attempting escape. I hurriedly caught the ones I could. The leaves suddenly became 'people' that I was saving from certain doom if they touched the earth. The next handful became the opposite--people who were sentenced to death by my putting them in 'the volcano'. Those that escaped were the lucky ones. It was silly, but I recognized that we can come up with anything by taking the ordinary a step or two further from reality, by making observations, by seeing with new eyes.

Just this week I noticed a book that took opposites and put them together. Vampires + fairies = vampire fairies. Who would have thought that could be successful? No matter what you're cooking up, the secret is to do it well. (Of course timing and other things come into play as well.) Another way to create an idea is to work backward. Where do you want a character to end up? Think of several paths he could have taken to get there, and pick the least likely one. It will feel like a plot twist.

How do you go about getting new ideas?

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