One of the most popular questions asked of writers is, “Where do you get your ideas?” That’s easy to answer. Everywhere. But sometimes I get stuck and it’s usually when I’m trying too hard to wrack my brain for a good plot, a new character, or even an incident for an upcoming scene. That’s when the muse needs to be stimuated, gently massaged into providing what I need. Here are a few locations where that has happened for me.
- Grocery Stores – I may have mentioned this before, but not long ago I saw a chicken huddling under a car in the store parking lot–in town. Truly. Now, if that doesn’t get your “how”s and “what if”s going, I don’t know what will. People of every socio-economic class buy groceries. Next time you are in the store, take special care to pay attention to people and what they buy. You may “see” that perfect future couple meet in front of the frozen pizzas. Oh, and why was that empty cattle truck sitting in the parking lot of another grocery store? Hmmm.
- Libraries and Book Stores – Have you ever perused the shelves and stopped at a particular book simply because the title intrigued you? Maybe it sparked an idea of what the book was about. Various situations in which the main characters found themselves flashed through your mind. Alas, when you read the back cover and sifted through the book, you discovered it was a totally different story than you had imagined. Get out your Ideas notebook ASAP!
- Museums/Historic Sites – I toured the visitor’s center at Gettysburg several years ago (in my mind, the best part of the site). They have a wall with photographs of dozens of soldiers who fought in the battle. Most have a caption telling who they were and a sentence or two about their fate. Just looking at their photos, my muse ran wild with fictional lives. Next time you visit a museum, choose a particular exhibit and ask yourself those good reporter questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
- Church – True, this isn’t the best place to be brainstorming. But I bet you’d be hardpressed to find a writer who doesn’t read a scripture, listen to a sermon point, or hear a prayer request and not have some writing-related epiphany. When that little idea pops up, quietly make note on your bulletin, then put it away and thank God.
- Restaurants – The smells, sounds. Who has not gone out to eat and been seated behind or next to people whose conversation gets the brainstorming juices flowing? Years ago, my husband I went out for dinner. Seated across the room were exasperated parents and their twin sons. These two boys were a hoot to watch. While one distracted Mom and Dad, the other worked some kind of mischief. Then the second one caused a distraction while the first turned the parents’ hair gray. Can you imagine putting a similar pair in a different setting and turning them loose? What havoc can they wreak?
Anywhere you go can provide stimulation for your muse—if you’re paying attention. Next time you leave your house, take a notebook, pen, and open mind. See what you bring home.
What about you? Where have you been when those thoughts have popped up, twisted and turned and become ideas for a future writing project? Did you make sure to write them down? Do they generally work out for you?