How do you get writing ideas? If any of you are like me, you have difficulty in finding the so-called ‘inspiration’ to write. As your schedule is filled with To-Do Lists of daily activities, you find no time to write. To make it worse, even when you have time to sit in front of your laptop (or notebook if you still use pen and paper) you find yourself without ideas. What to do? If this is you, make sure to read this writing. I will show you different ways to find writing ideas.
Inspired by life experience
Some people say they are inspired when they feel sad, rather than feel happy. In fact, they used the pain inside them to create art. While that might be true, I want you to focus on your life in general instead. Surely, there are both good and bad moments. You can write them down and based on those experiences you can imagine a character in a different world going through the same situation.
If you don’t want to over tell your story, try to modify the circumstances of the story. For example, maybe you had a heartbreak and felt lonely because of it. One way to modify it is to have a character who discuss what relationship means with her best friend. After the discussion, the character feels better from her heartbreak. Or maybe you were struggling at work and sadly had to resign. You can write about a character who discovered she’s expecting a baby and thought about becoming a home stay mom. She then resigned because she valued her health and family more. These two examples by the way are based on real short stories: “Eleven at Night” by Griselda Puspa and “Career Woman” by Adriani Sukmoro.
Inspired by the observation of your surroundings
When you walk outside try to pay attention to your surroundings. How many people are there? What are they doing? What was the weather like? Imagine the kind of conversations each person had with his or her friends. Or better yet, imagine their problems or inner conflicts. Initially, this task could be hard especially if you are not a watcher. Or maybe as you read this paragraph you went “That sounds creepy. Are you telling me to stalk people?” Not necessarily. It can be as simple as noticing a couple sitting at a table. You then imagine stories about them. Perhaps they’re meeting for the first time. What do they say to each other? What are their expectations? Is it a good night or did things go wrong?
Observing your surroundings would also be crucial when it comes to writing research. What I meant by ‘research’ is when you have a setting for your creative writing and had to gather information about it. For example, you write about a character who lives in your neighborhood and how he or she survives a harsh winter. You then observe the weather – how cold it can be in winter, and also how the neighborhood looks like. But sometimes you want to write at a different setting at a different time and place. That’s where resources like YouTube, Wikipedia, and books are valuable. You can observe the surroundings based on extensive research. By describing pebble stoned pathway, light drizzle, and a gloomy sky, the readers can imagine how the setting looks like in the story.
Inspired by books and movies
This happens to me a lot and I bet that it happens to you too. We read a good historical fiction book or watch a Netflix series, then all of a sudden, we want to write a story exactly like that! While it’s good to be inspired by media, I suggest that you try to dig deeper on what you do want to write. First, try to analyze why the book or the movie has a good story. Was it because of the characters, the plot, the soundtrack, the cinematography? All of them? After you find out why you like them, try to use it as inspiration. That means do not copy it right away. Instead, try to write a story with different set of characters, different settings, a different point of view in storytelling. But what’s most important is try to tell a story that only you can tell.
Nowadays there are re-telling of fairy tale books. Beauty and the Beast has undergone so many re-telling both in books and movies. Anna Todd, author of ‘After’ series wrote ‘The Spring Girls’ as a modern-day Little Women re-telling. Even Disney has rewritten Snow Queen into Frozen in 2013. Re-telling works when you use the same basic elements but adopt it to a different universe and sometimes, with a different ending and key takeaways.
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Inspired by a dream or snippets of imagination
Daydreaming. That is essentially what I’m telling you to do. Often times, people have brilliant ideas while they are in the shower. If this is your case, definitely remember the details of your imagination and jot it down (or type it down) on a Memo. If you often have dreams while sleeping, it might be useful to have a notebook next to your bed as your dream journal.
In daydreaming, you often hear the character’s voice as a dialogue to him or herself or to others. This is your chance to act like a director who can take and retake the scenes to enhance the flow of the story. Keep a mental check on several things: What is the setting of the scene? Who speaks to whom? What is his or her reaction? What are they talking about? If you’re in a big scene, try to work your way back. Why this happens? What happens before this scene? For example, you imagine a conflict scene where an accident happens and the main character quickly assist the injured person. You realized that this is a major scene and perhaps before this happens, there’s a foreshadowing that terrible accident will happen. Maybe the injured person is a reckless person and the main character is known to take good care of others when they are sick. Then voila, you just had two scenes tied up together. This example, by the way, was taken from “Persuasion” by Jane Austen.
Inspired by a theme, like a murder mystery
Who has seen “Knives Out”? I did, and honestly it is a good murder mystery movie. If you’re a genre reader, that is a reader of Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, and other genres, you might want to write based on a theme. Essentially, what you do is to first think of the theme of your story before starting to unriddle how you should plot, characterize, and describe the setting.
But we can also talk about theme in a broader sense. For example, you start a story of a brilliant character who finds out that she has symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. How is she going to cope with it? This example is taken from “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. In the book, she explored the themes of social stigma, disease, healing, and self-appreciation. Therefore, you can always have multiple topics in your writing.
Inspired by a place you saw
Now we’re talking about Travel Writing. Just kidding. While you definitely can write about your journey, you can also write creative fiction based on the places you see. Let say you take a vacation to Japan. Fascinated by the people and culture, you get inspired to write with a setting in Japan. Or maybe it doesn’t have to be that far. You visited a public library nearby your house. Then you ask, what if someone leaves a note on a book and another person finds it? Try to think of different places you’ve visited this year and imagine different stories that can come from it.
Having said that, I want to also mention that creative writing can mean creative fiction and creative nonfiction. Thus, it is fair to include Travel Writing as an example. How can you find ideas to write creative nonfiction? It is almost the same with I just said. You can get inspired by your experiences, your surroundings, books or movies, dreams, themes, or places you saw. The only difference is that in creative nonfiction you convey the true stories that happens.
So, here are the key takeaways. There are several ways to get inspired as long as you keep track of them. While it is easy to think that we have no ‘inspirations’, we can try to brainstorm ideas based on the list above. One last advice from me, is to make an Excel of your story ideas with a Working Title (that means a temporary title), Story Description, Character Names, and Setting. This way, you can keep track of your wildest ideas and use it when the time comes.