I can’t tell you where I get my ideas from exactly, but I can tell you when
One of the most common questions I am asked is, “where do I get my ideas from. And this is a complicated question to answer. I have seen many authors write humorous antidotes on this topic, but none of them reflected how they actually got them. For me, I can pinpoint when I get my far better than from where I get them.
Of course, all my ideas are inspired by something – an event or experience or even an observation. But the idea of the plot and the characters, well, that’s something that sort of happens.
The big idea
Every story has a big idea. A notion that stretches through the story – that is the tricky part. The entire story is based on this idea, and if it isn’t interesting enough, or you can’t make it interesting enough, then there is a big chance that the story will not engage your readers. Readers connect with the idea as much as they resonate with characters – so it’s really got to work.
I might get a snippet of an idea, like the idea for my novel, The Refugee. A book inspired by a news article I read on the refugee crisis that was occurring at the time. But it is just a concept. Not a story, just a hint into what it could be.
I am a walker. I love walking, and that is when my ideas become stories. I am an early riser and tend to walk for an hour or two in the mornings. Yes, I do it to keep healthy, but I do it primarily to help me focus and develop a story. A story worth reading.
I then think more in-depth about the idea, the message behind the story, and how it should be portrayed.
It’s important to remember that not all ideas have to big – as in “the end of the world” big. The ideas and conflict in the story can be simple but must be relatable. I previously wrote a children’s story called Alex the Extraordinary, and I didn’t think it had a big idea. It was a simple story of a boy’s ambition to be a great inventor, but it was well-received by children, which made me realise that stories are what you make them.
As Homo Sapiens, we have been telling each other stories since the beginning of time; we thrive on them and need them to help us understand concepts, make sense of things and perspectives.
I think ideas are all around us, and we are exposed to them every day, but the trick is to filter through them to find things that are worth telling and tell them well!