Where do you get your ideas?

I hear that that’s the most annoying question you can ask a writer.  I disagree; I think the most annoying question you can ask a writer is – what is it you write again?  Anyway, I digress, as ever.  The question I started to discuss was where to get your inspiration, well everywhere.

If like me you write crime, open the newspapers, there’s crime everywhere.  Locked In takes some aspects from an actual bank robbery that happened in my home town a few years ago, many years after I’d left it, but it made the national news.  I didn’t at the time think – oh yeah I’ll use that in a book – but when I needed a good reason for Charlie not to be seen for half the book, that incident immediately jumped to mind.

Some romance writers take inspiration from their own lives, I used to read a lot of Mills and Boon and there was a writer who always wrote about nurses falling for doctors, just as she’d fallen for her doctor husband. I think that we all do use our real lives in some way shape or form.  Though that said, I’ve found that the closer characters are to being me and leading my sort of life, the less well they work out. I figure this is because I don’t like me and so can’t write me very sympathetically.

But where else can you get ideas?  Well there are a surprising amount of books that can help you out there, go borrow or buy one, there’s no point me telling you what others already have.

I find that challenges work for me.  I’ll often see a competition and let that inspire me. I might not even enter the competition or write to the actual specifications, but I still get the inspiration.  Incidentally, I submit stories for competitions that I have written specifically for that competition, sending any old thing is likely to mean that I’m off beat with the theme of the competition.

Similarly I’ve done a MOOC with Future Learn for short story writing, and that was very useful for making me do something. I have also done other courses, mostly in forensics, and I’ve tried to find a story idea in each week.

There are also a lot of games out there that can help.  There is the obvious cross comparison with any role playing game, after all, writers spend their working lives imagining that they are other people.  Personally when I was a teen, I used to play Tunnels and Trolls, these days I play Dungeon and Dragons E5.  I’ve got an interest in playing Cthuhlu RPG too, just need to read the rule book.

One of the things I’ve noticed about other writers from going to various writers workshops, is how slow some people are to actually come up with a story.  Either that or they are just too reluctant to share.  Back to the point, there are a few games that really help as you have to make up a story on the spot.  My favourites at the moment are the “Gloom” series, but there are others, I’ve got one called “Once Upon a Time” which you have to put together a coherent story based on cards and just keep it going.

I often end up waiting for other people for various things, in various places (I’m awful for having to be early for appointments – even I know I’m stressing myself unnecessarily, but it seems to be hard coded).  But when I am or when I’m waiting in line, I’m always looking around for the story.  In fact I wrote a story on this subject, it’s called Bored, Bored, Not and you can read if on my website.

The point really is that there is inspiration everywhere, all you have to do is see it.

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