How To: Generate Ideas

Yesterday I talked about why writing is important, and that it is important to write, no matter how much or how little you do each day, so long as you do something. Today I want to continue on with the NaNoWriMo theme and, now that we know why it is important to write, talk about how to kick-start your writing.

Today I want to talk about how to get started – how to get the creative juices flowing to come up with ideas of things to write about. To me, that is probably the hardest part of the whole process, generating ideas. So I’ve come up with a couple of ideas to help get you started.

Carry a Notebook

You know that saying you come across so often about carrying a notebook and jotting ideas down wherever and whenever you find them? Well, I know I regret it any time I forget to take a pen and some paper with me anywhere I go. So much so that I’ve taken to using my cellphone and iPad for this purpose.

What kinds of things should you write down as ideas? Anything that catches your fancy that you think is interesting or unique: overheard snippets of conversation, something that happened to you or someone you saw, an interesting setting… whatever you can think of goes into your notebook, to be consulted when you are stuck for ideas.

Notebooks are also extremely handy when you have a sudden brainwave. You can jot it down in your notebook without worrying about forgetting the idea in the buzz of the everyday things everyone has to get done.

Sentence Starters

Write a bunch of random sentences and pick two at random to include in a story. These could be anything from “The cat sat on the mat…” to “Once upon a time in a land far away…” to “Mary crept up the steps slowly, careful not to make a sound.” For each sentence starter you come up with, try to write an opening paragraph for a story.

Random sentence generator

How this works:

Column A: as many names as you can think of, both male and female. (eg, Mary, Michael, Elisha, Amy, Charlotte, Carmel, Matt, Sam, Chris, Jack, Harry…)

Column B: as many verbs (doing words) as you can think of. (eg, sitting, crawling, creeping, eating, sleeping, running, playing…)

Column C: as many places as you can think of. These can be specific places such as Tauranga, New Zealand or generic such as a bedroom (eg, USA, New Zealand, Ohio, bedroom, closet, attic, bathroom, under the stairs…)

Column D: random objects (eg, table, chair, fork, scarf, egg, cheese, window

Pick any word at random from each column, (eg, Mary, sitting, USA, table) and incorporate all four words into your story.

Mary sat at her kitchen table in the United States and wondered, “What am I doing here so far from home?” This is incorporating all of the elements into one sentence but it also gives you an idea of the many different directions the story can take from here.

Are there story starters that you use that are different to the options I have listed above? How do you generate ideas for your writing? Share with me in the comments.

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6 thoughts on “How To: Generate Ideas

  1. Hello Olive! i share with you the same trait of carrying a notepad and a pen wherever i go. i must say it’s a genuine idea recorder. Yeah you can take a tablet too with you. But, i prefer the traditional pen and paper. Keep up with your blog. Thanks

    • I also prefer the traditional pen and paper above all else. There is something exciting about holding a pen that you just don’t get when typing on a computer or tablet.

      Thank you for the comment.

  2. For myself nothing is as inspiring a trigger as an empty page in a notebook—sitting next to a bucket of hot coffee in a cafe somewhere. Just watching arrivals ordering their brew of choice is enough …

    Failing that a blank box on screen in the trusty ol’ Mac at home, a poor second best but it serves.

    • I find it really interesting that you say that because when I look at a blank page, I find that my mind goes somewhat blank and I have no idea what to fill it with. I only go to those blank pages when I know what I’m going to start filling it with.

      If I sit down with a blank page to begin something, I struggle to begin anything and it generally turns into maybe a paragraph of featureless wasteland before I give up and try something else.

      • Perhaps you allow the blankness to pressure you?

        My own writing—such as it is—has been described as “flow of consciousness” (rather than planned).
        My favourite coffee shop in Invercargill allows me to sit for hours over the one brew whilst observing fellow customers; people are the richest triggers for creativity.

        • You might be right. My way around it is to start on the computer until I have a paragraph or two and then use pen and paper to continue.

          Invercargill? Nice to see another New Zealander here. I was starting to feel like I was blogging for a US and UK audience (I’m from Tauranga).

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