4 bottomless wells of ideas
Despite your good intentions, no quarantine hobby is providing you with real satisfaction. The idea of writing a book is aggressively stalking you. You definitely want to give it a try. The white page, however, is so blank, that you feel quite intimidated. You don’t know where to start; your mind is full of ideas, but you don’t know how to put them on paper.
Here you’ll find 4 bottomless wells of ideas in order to create good content for your novels.
1. Writing prompts.
Prompts are simple ideas on which you can build your story.
You can find plenty of prompts online, going from: “Write a story using the following words: swan, cloud, lipstick, exhaust pipe” to: “Write a story set on Escher’s stairs” to: “Write the story of two people who live together but never communicate except via post-it notes”. There are enough prompts to help you overcome any writer’s block for all eternity, but if you still need one, here it is: “Write a story about an author overcoming writer’s block after eternity is finished”.
2. What if…?
In order to use the “What if…?” technique, you have to ask yourself “What if this and that happened?” You shall substitute “this and that” with anything at all from the 16 known dimensions. What? There aren’t 16 known dimensions? And what if there were?
Remember, though: your imagination needs to be steered. Once you have your “what if…?” you need to follow. Let’s say your question is “what if there were two Suns?” Then you’ll have to take into consideration any astronomic consequences when you build your world. Or maybe your question is “What if Cinderella’s prince was a vampire?” You’ll have to think of what it means to be a vampire.
Wait, what? Imagination has rules? Alas, it has. Of course you’re the author, you’re the creator of your world, so you’re the one who sets the rules. This test can help: the question “Why…?” can’t be answered with just “Because.”
3. Existing myths and legends
There’s more than plenty of choice, here, but what does it mean to get your inspiration from existing myths?
Can you change Ulysses’s and Circe’s names and write a story where Mr. Smith gets to an island ruled by the witch Rosy who turns every man into a penguin? Well, no. Changing the names of the characters from an existing myth doesn’t make yours an original tale.
However, you can do the following:
- Rework a myth or legend into something personal. A few examples: the “Percy Jackson” saga by Rick Riordan; “Circe” and “Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller; “Uprooted” and “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik.
- Set your novel in an existing imaginary setting. Your story needs a setting: it can be real New York, or it can be imaginary Minas Tirith. You can very well set your story in Narnia, on Mount Olympus, in the Walhalla… Dante set his story in Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, after all.
- Take fairy-tale details for granted. If you read “the princess kissed the toad” what do you think is going to happen? That’s right: the toad will become a prince. It doesn’t really happen, however you can use it as information in your novel without giving further explanation, because everybody knows that when a princess kisses a toad in a story, the toad will turn into a prince.
4. The hero’s journey
The so called “hero’s journey” is a common structure in a novel. You can read about it online, or even better: read the book “The hero with a thousand faces” by Jospeh Campbell. If you’re a beginner, it will help you recognize what you need to create a good story. Your hero will receive a call, will find a mentor, overcome some obstacle, face a crisis, win and return home. Something like that.
As an exercise, after you’ve studied what the “hero’s journey” means, try and apply the pattern to the “Harry Potter” story.
Don’t miss my next article, with precious information about how to build your story.