One question writers get asked a lot is “Where do you get your ideas from?” The answer is so broad and varied, at least for me, it’s impossible to answer with a specific or simple reply. It’s much easier to answer “Where did you get the idea for (story)?” Even then, the answer can be incredibly complex. Ideas don’t just come from one place–a lot of times even the general theme of a story is derived from multiple sources, pieced together over time like bits of a very large puzzle.
Here are a few things that bring me inspiration and spark either whole or partial ideas that I can weave together and call a story:
Places. Travel is exciting and I wish I could do it more. When I do travel, I get a wealth of inspiration just from being somewhere new, having my eyes opened and my mind refreshed. But you don’t have to travel to some far-off exotic locale to light a fire under the muse. Just going to a different store than usual or taking a new route home from work wakes you up and jars you back into reality. When you’re grounded in the present, you really see things and pay attention. These brain-jogs can help get the creative juices flowing. Additionally, visiting somewhere like a museum or a beautiful garden can give you inspiration as well–you might find yourself wanting to set a scene there, or the change of scenery might get you past a block. It’s all about getting out of a rut and waking your brain up.
People. I have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances and they’re all fascinating and unique in their own ways. I find myself weaving traits of people I know into my characters, or expanding on and twisting those traits in ways that breathe life into my imaginary people. Observing people is the best way to learn how to make people. We’re all fundamentally human but we all have little things that make us special and interesting.
Music. I’m incredibly inspired by music. Songs are mini stories and oftentimes tell epic tales in just a few minutes. That’s why music is an art form. Music shakes up my creative brain and makes me want to write something.
Myself. My life, present and past, often seeps into my stories in some way. We put a lot of ourselves into our art and we shouldn’t be ashamed to admit it. A personal memory can be inspiration for a great scene or even a whole story. The things we’ve learned throughout life can be lessons for our characters. If you’re feeling like the world is drab and boring and void of inspiration, try looking inside yourself instead.
Other stories. The tales that come from other writers make me want to write too. There’s nothing more inspiring than a good book. What most of us call ‘originality’ is just a different take on someone else’s tale. Humans like to pass around ideas and themes, and through reading you can find one you like and put your own spin on it.
Writing itself. Writing begets more writing, it really does. Like any other art form, it’s practice that makes it work like a well oiled machine.
How about you? Where do you get YOUR ideas from?