1. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    This has possibly never happened to you -

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by The Backward OX, Sep 22, 2008.

    You tell yourself that you want to write (a story).

    To ensure there’s no possibility of misunderstanding here, that could also be phrased: You tell yourself that writing a story might be an interesting way to pass the time.

    Whatever, you then find you haven’t the faintest idea what exactly it is you want to write; you haven’t the faintest idea what to write about to pass the time.

    In other words, you have no ideas for a story.

    What advice might you give in such a situation?
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Write what you know. Go for a walk, watch TV, see what takes your interest. Also, asking "what if" questions helps me. What if this happens? What if this was there, instead?
     
  3. Jade
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    Jade Active Member

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    I free write. Just sit there with a blank pc screen, and sometimes some inspiring things like photographs, or music, and let the ideas come. Even if it sounds like babble, write it. When you've filled a few pages, go back and highlight your favourite bits or what you think might be worth something. If none of them make much sense, try and flesh them out with 'What ifs?' like Banzai said.
     
  4. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    A situation like this is a good time to ask "Why do you want to write a story"
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think it's like saying, "I'm going to be creative right now." Inspiration doesn't strike on command. That;s why you might want to keep track of ideas when they do flash into your head.
     
  6. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    Get a book of prompts-- it could be a memo pad of passing ideas (because I frequently get the opposite, an idea to write but not accompanied with the drive to, or the ideal environment to, flesh it out into a real story,) a dictionary (flip to three random words and use them together in a piece-- though that seems a prompt that lends itself more to poetry,) any book of advice for writers (they'll usually come with lots of exercises or prompts,) or a fun pack of cards (things like Lynn Gordon's 52 series-- "52 Things to Try Once in Your Life" I used for writing prompts, but the Tarot is my favourite.)
     
  7. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Truth be told, I never write just because I think it might be an interesting way to pass the time. Jumping off a bridge might be an interesting way to pass the time, too, but I'm not going to go do it. I write because it's what I love to do and I think I'm kind of good at it, plus, I want to share my work with others to entertain them.

    If you can't think of a story idea, maybe either 1. you need to come up with a better way to pass the time or 2. you need to come up with a better reason to write a story, other than to just "pass the time."

    Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I find the situation kind of strange. If you're going to settle on writing to "pass the time" and no ideas are coming, you need to strengthen your resolve to actually write something. Writing a story has to be something you honestly WANT to do, for the sake of writing the story--not just because you're bored and it sounds interesting. Like any kind of work, it takes time and patience and resolve--it's not like just tossing off a few words for the fun of it. Lots of us think over our ideas for weeks, months, years. We learn to look for ideas in things, to let them come to us--for the most part they don't just land in our laps, all ready to be written. We have to grow them. Then when we write them we have to tweak them and mold them and fix them when they get broken. It's work.

    When you really WANT to write, the ideas usually come more easily. Even if they don't, you can still find yourself writing something. But don't expect it to be easy. You have to want to put up with all that trouble. When you buy a new dog, you can't just pet it and play with it, you have to feed it and walk it and care for it, too.

    Would you buy a new dog because it sounds like an interesting way to pass the time...?

    Kind of a silly comparison, but that's how it is in my eyes at least. *shrug*
     
  8. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    Wells said on this part.

    Also I would suggest that this poster read the "Why do we write" topic.

    In some cases it is very enlightening and even inspirational.
     
  9. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    I disagree. Not everybody thinks of writing as work, nor (obviously) must they or need they make it a profession. It can be a hobby, to practice penmanship, or to pass the time. It doesn't ruin the "sanctity" or insult the importance of professional illustrators and classical masterpieces, to just spend an afternoon watercoloring does it? I sometimes do that, starting out with no idea what to paint and ending up with washes or another bunch of blots of my cat.

    I used to be able to start out with no idea what to write, but just because I think over the concepts more carefully now doesn't mean if I find the way somebody else works "strange," I should say they need to work more like me. Frankly, I thought that was rather narrow and snobbish.

    It's not a puppy, it's a skill, and I see no harm in developing it for its own sake.

    And, in the case of professional writers

    ... isn't true either, not for every writer. I can name Gail Carson Levine and Natalie Goldberg, who both recommend freewriting (stream-of-consciousness, tossing off a few words just for the heck of it writing) both to practice and get unstuck. I agree with your advice about learning to look for ideas in things, but you can't sell "conceptualizations over several years"-- you sell words. If someone wants to get into the habit of writing words that come in seconds, with conceptualization that was effortless, for a process they'd find enjoyable-- why should that be discouraged?
     
  10. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Because the OP said s/he wanted to write "just because" but didn't have any ideas. Why strain to push something out if you're doing it "just because"?

    If you have no ideas and you're not serious about writing, then go do something else to while away an afternoon. There's no reason to beat your head against a creative wall if you just don't care all that much. If you don't have any ideas and you are serious about writing, then you should be buckling down and focusing (or doing some sort of recharging activity).

    If you are a serious writer, then sitting and doing some freeform stream-of-consciousness can be a great way to help spark ideas. That's not what's being disparaged here.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    My problem is I have so many ideas I cannot keep up with them all.
     
  12. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    A comment like that, in context, is about as much use as tits on a bull.
     
  13. Darkthought
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    Darkthought Active Member

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    Do not write what you know. I find that to me the most overrated advice anyone can give a writer. Do you think Tolkien ever had any experience with a hobbit, elf, or dark lord? No...he did not. Have any number of fantasy/sci-fi writers ever slain a dragon or experimented with interstellar travel? Nope, they sure haven't.
     
  14. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    Maybe whenever you're stumped, you can pm architectus for a plot bunny.

    What I saw being disparaged was love of writing, just because somebody suggested that it can be fun or done "just because". Why must it be deadly serious for everybody? Why must it be work and never a hobby? Can't we just let people who want to, test the waters-- and express themselves, just for themselves?
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    My apologies. I have ADD. I meant to write more and got side tracked, and I guess I posted this with out writing everything I intended.

    I meant to go on and say how my ideas come to me. I get a lot of ideas in dreams. I remember at least one dream a night on average. I am working on a flash fiction story right now based on a dream I had last night.

    Another way is from reading articles, news, mythology, etc. Especially new breakthroughs in technology. This sparks a lot of ideas. I think what if we developed androids. What laws would we pass? Could you buy them for slaves, or sex? Would we put a lock on how self aware they can become? I then try to answer these questions and imagine a future based on my answers.

    I will be watching a movie, reading a short story, or novel, and I will think of a new idea based on what I saw, or read. Or only part way into the story, I will have already imagined a middle and end.

    Take a random idea by searching online, and quickly write a story based around it. They do this exercise at Liberty Hall, and they turn out a lot of good stories. They give you a trigger and you have 90 minutes to write a short story based on it. Also there are short story contest here that can spark an idea. I think right now it is a dark secret. Think of a story that fits that idea. a dark secret.

    Hope this helps.
     
  16. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Then I believe you are mistaken. Consider the OP; s/he said "I want to write to pass the time, but I can't think of any ideas."

    The response: "Then find some other way to pass the time."

    This is not discouraging the love of writing or whatnot. Nor is it even saying that writing must always be a drudge. However, if you are not serious about it, don't do it when it's hard. If you're trying to do it and it's hard and you're not having fun, then you're either A) actually serious and lying to yourself/us/whoever or B) not terribly bright. (Or C) masochistic, I suppose.)

    Do you see the distinction? Someone has come in, announced that they don't really care and just want to write to pass the time/have fun, and then complained that they have no ideas. This is not a case of someone coming in, announcing they like to write to have fun, and everyone telling them off for it.
     
  17. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Tolkein knew plenty about celtic mythology and languages, most science-fiction writers (at least the good ones) have some scientific knowledge, and fair enough, a good deal of fantasy novels are rip offs of Tolkein/Donaldson/etc, but still, it could be argued that they'd read those novels, and that was what they knew.

    I wrote a novel set in the Spanish Civil War. Did I fight in it? No. Did I study it, in great depth? Yes. You don't have to have stormed the Bastille yourself, in order to know about it.
     
  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yup. Excellent advice. Even the most random and unconnected bits of thought can come together eventually and create a cohesive whole. I keeps notes on everything in a little notebook that fits in my back pocket.
     
  19. CommonGoods
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    CommonGoods Senior Member

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    "In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit."

    Tolkien actually wrote this down on a test paper of one of his students. This sparked his interest in hobbits, which led to "The Hobbit", and we know what happened after that.

    I usually come up with my ideas when I cycle to school/home. 45 minutes, plenty of time to think. Just take a basic idea, do some research, read stuff here. You can't force creativity, but you can stimulate it.
     

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