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Finding ideas for stories

The clichéd question to ask an author seems to be the classic, ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ One of the things I have learned as I sail this writing journey is that there is no clear answer to this question. Artists of all formats find ideas and inspiration in the strangest of places. I remember hearing an interview with Roald Dahl once where he mentioned getting his ideas during his dreams, and the need to write them down as soon as he woke up so he wouldn’t forget them. Once, according to my former poetry teacher, I wrote my best (and only proper) poem when we did an exercise where we had to look at a painting and write a poem based on that.

I don’t have one clear, single answer to the question about where my ideas come from, so this blog post provides a snapshot of some of the strange ways in which I find inspiration.

Do you ever get those moments when a line or a plot idea just randomly forms in your head? I do, but unfortunately it seems to happen at the worst possible times; I’m either mid-shower, or I’m about to nod off to sleep. Neither of those moments is the best time to dash to a notepad or my PC. I heard Kate Grenville once say that she got the idea for one of her novels (I can’t recall which one, I’m afraid) while eating out and had notes scribbled onto a paper napkin so that she wouldn’t forget them. The ideas can really come at any time, and not in the most inspiring of locations.

One of the great things about fiction writing is the use of intertextuality. You could be doing some research on a historical topic that interests you, and read a throwaway line about someone or some event, and that’s when it sparks: I wonder what happened with that guy? What’s his story? Or you might want to tell a popular story from a completely different perspective, like Gregory Maguire did with Wicked. There are just so many options for fiction writers in particular that the sky really is the limit.

My writing space is currently very uninspiring. I’ll have to do a future post about it, but my desk is a cluttered mess and I have no decent view, not even any artwork on the wall. I would love to have a house on a remote property with views of mountains or lakes (or both, which is why I love Makarora in New Zealand so much), so for now, without the views or setting to inspire me, my ideas will just continue to come at random and awkward moments.

So, where do you get your ideas from?

Photo courtesy of the Makarora Tourist Centre
Photo courtesy of the Makarora Tourist Centre
Published inInspiration

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