Coming Up with Ideas for a New Book

DAYDREAM

I daydream all the time. Stories are always swirling around in my head, sometimes to the point of distraction. When I should be working or studying, I am daydreaming instead. When I take my dogs for a walk, I daydream. When I am in the car and someone else is driving, I daydream. When I’m waiting to be seen by the doctor or waiting in line for something, I daydream.

Oftentimes, my daydreams are triggered by something I’ve seen, heard, or read:

What I’ve Seen – I get lots of ideas for new worlds and new characters from TV and movies. Sometimes I get ideas for characters by watching real people. For example, why was that woman at the grocery store so rude to the manager? What situation could have possibly occurred to make her yell at him and insult him so harshly? If she had been a noblewoman, how much further would she have taken her anger? When I see situations like this, I sometimes put my characters in their shoes and replay the situation.

Dwarves Bilbo and Gandalf in Rivendell Hobbit Movie

What I’ve Heard – Music can inspire me sometimes too. Songs that have recently stirred my imagination are “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence, “Castle of Glass” by Linkin Park, “Stairway to Heaven”, a tribute from Heart to Led Zeppelin, and “I See the Light” by Mandy Moore & Zachary Levi.

What I’ve Read – Things I’ve read can also inspire daydreams. It can be a fantasy novel, a short story, or just a random article on the web. Being as how I’ve been focusing on my pet business lately and reading about dogs, I read a great true story about a dog rescued from a horrible puppy mill situation. This kind of story gets me thinking about what kind of person it would take to be so greedy as to treat animals this way. Then I think about the kindness of the people who go out of their way to rescue such animals. Can I apply both these kinds of people to characters in a fantasy story?

The Third Kingdom by Terry Goodkind

KEEP A WRITING JOURNAL

Since different stories come to mind all the time, I try to take notes in order to keep track of them. I have a journal that I write in and periodically peruse through. If I find a particular character or setting recurs, I create a folder or binder for it.

I currently have a permanent binder for nine novels. For six of those novels, I plan on continuing the Dukarian Legacy series. The other three novels are with different characters and different settings. One of those novels is “The Guardian of Destiny”, which is my 2014 writing project.

WRITING EXERCISES

I have a couple of books that give ideas for creative writing. “Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing” is a great resource. Select from hundreds of writing ideas that can help encourage you to not only write, but to come up with creative ideas. Most of my exercises are trash, but every once in a while I come up with something that triggers an idea.

Rip the Page Book Cover

One of the writing exercises indicated in this book is about clichés. Instead of saying hot as fire or cold as ice, the exercise asks you to brainstorm different ways to describe hot and cold. If this doesn’t give you a story idea, at least it keeps your creativity skills sharpened.

Another idea is to describe a color without saying what the color is. Show, not tell. How does it feel, taste, smell? Writing exercises are a great way to stir ideas.

DESIGNATE SPACE

All of my binders and folders are on a specific shelf. On each end of all the binders is a silver dragon book end. And the spine of almost every binder is colorfully labeled. I have resource books there too, books such as “Life in Medieval Times”, “The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures”, “European Arms and Armor”, “45 Master Characters”, “Writing Fiction”, etc.

DESIGNATE TIME

This has been the most difficult for me. I can actually think of a number of times when I was being lazy and could have been writing instead. But sometimes it is so difficult. It’s easy to think about what I want to do, but another to actually do it. I wrote a blog post some time back on this topic – Setting Goals to Write. I think it is time for me to reread it and try to implement it.

What do you do to force yourself to write? How do you come up with story ideas?

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