Generating Ideas - Introduction
One of the most common questions writers get asked is Where do you get your ideas from? Well the answer is there is no simple answer. Writers get their ideas from a wide variety of sources. As we have already seen, there are some common strategies used to generate good ideas.
It is important first of all to distinguish between an idea and a story. An idea is an interesting concept that has the potential to be turned into a good story. A story is the final product that is created when the idea has been developed and reworked probably many times.
Sometimes good ideas come to us unexpectedly in a bolt of inspiration, but that is rare. Most ideas are generated from our own experiences, or from our observations of others. Ideas can come from incidents at school, work or home, or even from TV shows or other people’s writing. They can come from all sorts of places – often unexpected places. Ideas surround us daily, and good writers are good observers of them. Some writers even carry a notebook with them to record their ideas as they come to them. That is recommended!
Ideas can be compared to seeds in a garden. Some will blossom into flowers, others may turn out to be weeds, and some won’t even germinate at all. But the more seeds you have the better your chance of flowers.
An essential combination
In a nutshell, it could be said that all ideas come from only two places: experience and imagination. Most fictional stories are a combination of the two.
In Maria Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi we read about the life of Josephine, the daughter of Italian immigrants in Australia. Even though it is a work of fiction, we know that Marchetta herself is the daughter of Italian immigrants so a lot of the story would be based on her own life. This is an example of experience mixed with imagination.
Even stories that seem exotic and surreal can be inspired by real life. J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan was inspired by the death of the author’s 13 year-old brother. As Barrie and his family grew older, his brother remained the same age in their memories. He was ‘the boy who never grew up’.
Great works of fiction often come from real life experiences mixed up with a healthy dose of imagination. It would be extremely difficult to write a fictional story based simply on one or the other.
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