I was thinking this morning about ideas. A question that every author is asked at some stage in their writing career is: Where do you get your ideas from?
It’s an obvious question which often results in a less than obvious response from the author.
There is one thing to remember here: ideas are not plot.
For me, ideas are like seeds. They start off being tiny and, if I’m being honest about it, seemingly insignificant. It’s what you do with the idea that’s important. Watch it. Nurture it. Let it grow and develop in the way it needs to. That’s the key to making the most of an idea, allowing it to germinate naturally with minimal interference on the part of the author.
But how to find the idea in the first place?
Ideas can be found anywhere and everywhere. If you are looking for an idea you will usually find one. It’s important to remember to tell your subconscious you are looking for an idea.
Say to yourself or, even better, write it down: I am looking for an idea for my novel/short story/poem, etc.
After you have made your intention clear, listen. Listen to the whispers of your subconscious. Is there a recurring image, a sentence, a vague sense of a character forming, a place in time or a
feeling that comes to you and refuses go away? That’s it. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but that’s your idea. Your seed.
If you’re struggling then read, listen to music, watch films or the news, listen to snippets of conversation. If your intention is out there, and you are listening and watching, sooner or later
something will whisper in your ear. This is me. I’m your idea.
There is often a misconception that you require a plot before you can begin a novel. I disagree. Yes, you do need a character or characters, but don’t worry if you don’t know much about them as yet. Begin to write and you will find out. Writing is discovery.
I started my first (unpublished) novel Loving Lottie with a single sentence: I saw her in July on the lawn in the square.
I was living in Brighton at the time and the idea I had was of a man watching a girl reading a book on the lawn in the gardens of Brunswick Square. I knew that the man was much older than the girl, and that he knew her but hadn’t spoken to her for a long time. I knew that she had been very important to him.
That’s it. That’s all I knew. By the time I finished my novel it was ninety thousand words long. All I had in the beginning was that one single sentence and those few scraps of information. I didn’t even know the name of the man or the girl. I discovered my characters and their relationship as my novel evolved. The story came from the situations my characters found themselves in and the way they reacted to those situations.
So go on! Put your intention out there. Look and listen. Find your ‘idea’ (even if it’s nothing more than a single sentence), and don’t be afraid to begin. Everyone else had to.