Today I have a guest post from Cathi Shaw about finding story ideas who kindly took time out of her busy schedule to write this for my blog..
Finding Story Ideas
One of the most common questions any published writer is asked goes like this: “Where do the ideas for your stories come from?” I’ve talked a lot about how ideas just seem to come to me and, for the most part, that’s true especially when I’m referring to my fictional writing and big projects like novels. I’m really lucky in that inspiration seems to just emerge out of thin air sometimes.
But what about for blog entries or assigned writing? Where do those ideas come from?
I have to admit that sometimes those are the toughest assignments. I don’t always have a great idea suddenly pop into my head when I’m asked to write. And I’ve found that the more pressure you’re under, the harder it is to come up with a good idea to write about.
My daughter is also a writer and she was invited recently to submit a short piece to an anthology. She went through all her unpublished work looking for something that might work but nothing really seemed to fit the request. She decided to write something new but she had no idea what. As 3 weeks dwindled into one, she was still stumped. Finally we started to give her prompts. Three word combinations to write a short story about. After the first four or five combos she was inspired and a story came to her!
There are a number of “tricks” or “prompts” you can use to get going on a new piece of writing. The first advice I would give would be to make it fun. I think an attitude of play is important in any creative endeavor. Here are a few ideas for getting yourself started as a writer:
Go to a public place (coffee shop, park, bus) and listen to the people around you. Try to write a dialogue with the same accents and inflections you hear.
Take a walk outside (it doesn’t matter what time of year or the type of weather because each has its own charm) and look at the world with a micro focus. Try to describe a tiny bee you see buzzing around some flowers or the rain drop clinging to the leaf of a tree. Paint a picture with words.
Use prompt words to create a scenario. You can have friends give you prompts or you can make up a game to find your prompts (first word on the third section of the daily newspaper and the first thing someone says to you that day).
Use a beloved book (or movie) as inspiration. Write an after story of what happens once the story ends. Or (I personally like this one better) identify a side character who isn’t developed in the tale you’ve watched or read and make up that character’s story.
There are lots of other ways to prompt yourself to start a new project. I think the most important thing is to be aware of inspiration when it comes to you. Carry a small notebook around with you and jot down any idea as it pops into your head or get a dictation app for your mobile device and record the ideas. Revisit those daily bursts of inspiration on a regular basis and use them to spark your next writing adventure!
Read an Excerpt from the book
Kiara felt her face heat with anger. "You judge me too quickly, Outlander," she said coldly.
Kiara felt Thia's fingers grasping her arm. "Kiara, stop, this is not helpful."
Caedmon nodded. "Listen to your little sister, girl. She at least speaks sense."
Kiara shook Thia off. "What do you know of it?" she demanded as she took three steps closer until she was within arm's length of Caedmon. She forced herself to ignore the fact that her head barely reached his shoulders. Showing Caedmon how his physical size affected her would not help matters.
"Hey, I was thinking of going into the Village to see what we could find. How about it?" Teague broke in with a grin and a nod toward the street. "C'mon Caedmon, you know a pint of ale and a pretty new face might lighten your mood."
Caedmon ignored his brother and took a step closer to Kiara, erasing the little space that had remained between them. Kiara fought the sudden urge to step away again. Instead she smiled dismissively.
"Yes, why don't you listen to your brother, Caedmon, and go find a sweet Village lass to dally with. Stars knows, our serving maids have had their fill of you."
Caedmon's dark eyes were devoid of emotion. "How many men have you killed, Kiara?" he asked, his deep voice taking on a menacing tone as it radiated through her.
She tossed her head. "I've had plenty of kills."
He shook his head. "Animals, perhaps." He leaned closer using his size and physical proximity in an attempt to intimidate her.
Realizing what he was doing, Kiara forced her lips to tilt up in a shadow of a smile. Then she leaned even closer and whispered, "Same thing."
His eyes hardened. "That statement shows how naïve and unprepared you are." He turned away in disgust and said to Teague, "They really thought she would help? Are we to babysit?"
Teague's teasing manner disappeared swiftly. "Caedmon, you know why we're here."
"Why are you here?" Thia asked suddenly. "I, for one, would like an answer to that question."
Her sister had a point. What was the reason for their sudden appearance at the Inn?
Title: Five Corners: The Marked Ones Author: Cathi Shaw Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy Publication Date: 30th January 2014
Tell Me About It
Growing up in a sleepy village untouched by distant wars and political conflicts, it was easy for Thia, Mina and Kiara to forget such horrors existed in the Five Corners. That is until the dead child is found; a child that bears the same strange birthmark that all three sisters possess. A Mark their mother had always told them was unique to the girls. Kiara's suspicions grow as their Inn is soon overrun with outsiders from all walks of life. Strangers, soldiers and Elders who all seem to know more about what is happening than the girls do. After Mina barely survives an attack in the forest, the sisters are faced with a shattering secret their mother has kept from them for years. As danger closes in around them, the sisters are forced from their home and must put their trust in the hands of strangers. With more questions than answers, Kiara finds herself separated from everyone she loves and reliant on an Outlander who has spent too much time in army. She doesn't trust Caedmon but she needs him if she has any hope of being reunited with her sisters and learning what the Mark might mean.
Cathi Shaw lives in Summerland, BC with her husband and three children. She is often found wandering around her home, muttering in a seemingly incoherent manner, particularly when her characters have embarked on new adventure. In addition to writing fiction, she teaches rhetoric and professional writing in the Department of Communications at Okanagan College and is the co-author of the textbook Writing Today.