Fiction Writing with Officer HerpDerp at 5 AM: Gathering Ideas

So, we’ve all sat down and decided to write a novel before, be it because we want to or because it’s one of our sources in which we make money for a living. Some of us have already been struck by an idea for a novel, some of us are inspired but we don’t have any idea what we want to write, or some of us just need an idea or more regardless of the situation (I.E needing an idea for something like NaNoWriMo, which is this month – good luck, if whoever’s reading this is a NaNo-er).

Some of us come up with the general plot or idea of the story first, then come up with the characters. Some of us come up with the characters, then the plot or general idea of the story. Some of us come up with the general idea, then the characters, then the full-on plot. This, my first blog article on giving tips for fiction writers, is for those of us who are on that stage, be it first, second, or third, where we need that spark of inspiration, be it for the general idea or plot, or a concept for a character.

This will consist of the ways that I, and other people, have gotten ideas – none of which are confirmed to work for you or anyone, but have worked for others, so it’s worth a try if you can manage it or it seems like a good idea to you. These will be from my own personal experiences, the experiences from writers I know, and the experiences of random people on the internet. If you have a way that you’ve gotten ideas – be it the general story, plot, or a character concept – that you think could help people out, please feel free to put them in the comments! The more the merrier, after all.

I tend to get my ideas from research, or just hearing about whatever interesting concept I get lucky enough to find. Since I love to know more about things that tickle my fancy when I hear of them, when I hear or read about an interesting concept or event, I get to researching, starting at wikipedia and going down into things that are generally accepted to be more reliable if I find it interesting enough from there on. This research goes on, until suddenly, an idea may spark for something that I could use to base a novel, novella, or short story on!

This first worked out wonderfully for me when I got the first sparkle of inspiration for the original idea of the current universe I am writing in. I was watching the I.D. channel, and some of the people involved in the cases they had been going over were involved in a cult. I found this interesting and started to look it up, delving deeper and deeper into reading about cults and things similar to them until I was specifically reading about cults that were involved in religions and ritualistic concepts. I ended up reading a lot about different religions, magic, and different cults in one or two nights.

I ended up getting an idea the next day for the main group of characters the first few novels in my series are centering around. They were originally a cult led by a maniacal man who believed he had found a way to summon the former ‘Angel of Light’ and current ‘Prince of Darkness’, Lucifer. As the years went by, the characters developed, changed, and fixed themselves to hold a place in my heart, the story changing to something only vaguely similar to what it was on that 28th of November two years ago. This way of getting ideas has worked for me countless times since, be it for roleplay characters, short stories, new characters for the universe my novels take place in, or new novel ideas as a whole.

The next few are quotes from a survey I conducted here on the internet with people I have never met or spoken to before (they will remain anonymous due to this fact), perhaps with my opinion or insight added afterwards.

Well, the more creative your mind is, the more ideas you’ll get.

I personally can examine a simple object or word, and create a nice poem, or even a wicked short story about it.

Most of the time, I just think of different stories completely out of random.

The first one is one that a lot of, if not all, writers thrive upon, or at least attempt to do so – creativity. Everyone has it somewhere in their mind, although some people seem to have more than others. Use it, even if it’s not as apparent as it is in someone else – just because you don’t feel as creative as others doesn’t mean you can’t be if you delve deep enough into yourself! The second is a fun and interesting concept which I have tried before, and have written a drabblet short story or so as a result of, along with a few poems, that speaks for itself, as is the third.

I refer to my notebook of “ideas” where something struck me as interesting and I noted next to it “look into this” or “would be a good subplot for a fantasy” or “nice characteristic for an antagonist”

I also ask “what if” constantly. What if people aged much slower? How would that affect our society (years in school, years in retirement, marriages, etc). Or what if the FBI was never formed and the mafia still existed in full force to this day? How would that have affected society? Or What if a modifier was discovered that could control the rate at which your cells replaced themselves? What if you could clone body parts? What if humans evolved from aliens? What if the Bible is really a story of our original planet before we colonized Earth? What if Iraq was the world’s leading super power.

Etc. That’s basically how I generate ideas. All the little details I steal from real life.

I really like this person’s outlook and how they ‘generate ideas’, in their own words. I think the “what if” manner could really help people struggling to put together an idea, and keeping track of little details that come to mind such as good ideas for plots, subplots, character traits, names, etc can help manage said ideas (that’s mainly the only thing I use my phone for – memo’ing little ideas when I don’t have access to my notebooks or computer).

1.) Ideas. Use imagination.

2.) Find ideas. Use five senses: Touch, taste, smell, see, hear. Mix ’em for originality.

3.) The five ‘w’s. Who, what, when, where and why. Find the story.

4.) Story elements. Setting, rising action, conflict, falling action, end. Usually needed.

5.) Action. Use active verb forms, active settings, active characters. Good writing.

6.) Description. Describe in small doses. Use action and observation. It’s the best way.

7.) Experiment. Stories can be great when “outside the box” and “the comfort zone.”

8.) Edit. Check spelling, grammar, sentence structure, flow and format. Always.

9.) Publish. Use “The Writer’s Market” or “Writer’s Digest” to learn “How To Publish.” 

10.) Keep trying.

I like this person’s ‘check list’ of sorts. It’s not something everyone has to follow or use every thing on, but it’s simple, down to the point, and although it’s not JUST about gathering ideas for things, as this is about, it gives some good tips for writers.

Unfortunately, none of the people I know who write at least on the occasion who have any ways other than these to get ideas are awake right now aside from “lul i don’t really know” and the whole “IT’LL COME TO YA!” (reference cookie) deal, so I’d like to request even more that, no matter what time it is you’re reading this, be it tonight, a few weeks from now, a few years from now, whatever, comment with the way that you personally get your writing ideas.

That’s all I have for now and I apologize for not putting too much content into this post, but I hope it’s at least helpful. Next time I do something on writing and give tips, hopefully I’ll be in more of a state of mind to give more opinions, insight, feedback, and general comments. Thank you for reading, and I will probably end up updating this to fix any horrific mistakes I’ve made in my tired mess, make it more proper of a post intended to be helpful, and just make it overall better than it is now.

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