A question I’m often asked about writing is how do I come up with my ideas?

May 20 Question

Now I don’t want to appear arrogant, but that’s never been a problem. You see, there’s a trick, and it’s one I’ll share.

The ideas and inspiration are everywhere you look, and that’s what you have to do – look. And listen.

The most insignificant observation could be the spark which ignites the idea which will evolve into a poem, short story, or even a novel.

Consider the first short story I had published. Second Best featured brothers of European nobility in Ivan and Emil. Taking part in a writing group, I was confronted by several objects and challenged to create a story from them. Now one item was a cloth jester toy. Now already known for writing the macabre online, I was drawn to this fellow but while some might concoct tales of cheer concerning a toy, my first thought was that this thing could choke a person if swallowed. And that’s exactly what I did in my story. After a short lifetime of bullying at the hands of older brother, Ivan, little Emil could take no more and Ivan had his comeuppance as the jester toy was rammed down his throat, thus choking him to death. Okay, there was more to the story than just that, but I often get the ending first and simply have to write the story to reach the conclusion.

Subsequently, I’m always on the lookout for ideas and find them when I least expect.

An encounter in a bookshop, a memorial bench, characters in my street (sorry neighbours), a ghost hunt. All have been the inspiration which led to short stories I’ve had published since. Some of them major competition winners.

The reality is, anything you see or hear could be turned into a story. As I look in my notebook, I see a recent entry written while watching, The Antiques Roadshow. It was a few weeks ago when one of the experts tried to value a piece of wood with Indian carvings. It was part of a much larger piece but the mystery was in the fact it had been found buried in a back garden.

Wow! It opened all sorts of questions. What was it, why was it buried in the back garden, and how long had it been there? They didn’t know the answer on the show and neither do I at the moment, but I will one day. At least in a story.

Other jottings include:

The stumbling drunk more concerned with getting to Yates’ bar than stopping to wait for his friends.

The second step from the bottom of the theatre auditorium which makes a noise when you tread on it.

The fresh iron burn on my new carpet being in exactly the same place as one made by the previous occupants on the old carpet.

The overheard comment. “It’s amazing the noises you hear within the silence.”

The sepia photograph of Victorian children. All smiling, bar one. Why?

And only today as I drove past a cemetery. In the middle of the road, rolling down the hill was a blue ball and not a soul in sight.

All of the above will at some point be used, I just have to come up with the scenario to do so. However, having had the ideas, you have to make sure you don’t forget them. Therefore, always carry something to note down what you see.

Cheers.

Nick

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