Writing Ideas: Basic Tips
After the first part, here we are with a second group of suggestions for finding ideas for writing.
Do you dream. What do you want, will you say? Just lie under the sheets, turn off the light, close your eyes and it’s done.
Maybe it was that simple! For me it doesn’t work like that, since I almost never remember my dreams (more or less from the only ones I can remember, my first and second novel were born). Try not to do like me: dreams are an excellent source of inspiration, because they are one of the few moments in which our imagination devours every boundary and projects itself into infinite space.
What are the most useful dreams? I bet you already know: the most intense ones. That terrify you, to the point of jumping into bed and waking you up with your heart in your throat, or so pleasant that in the morning you would want to do without getting up to stay a little longer under the covers. If you are lucky, certain dreams will be so complex that they already form a story by themselves.
But even if they weren’t so coherent, you still have to make the effort to make them useful: as soon as you wake up, fall into the notebook of the Basic Rule n. 1 and note the salient features of the dream. Next, try to give them the shape of a story, however unlikely or barely sketched. Identify the characters and describe them, pinned to the various passages of the plot, the beginning and the ending.
Without too much effort, you may find yourself with the best story you have ever written.
Look for a theme that you are passionate about. Friendship, joy, anguish, depression, guilt: what intrigues you the most? What do you feel the need to explore with your words? If you have found a theme, you have the heart of the story. All you have to do is build around the rest.
I really like this point of the Decalogue, and I have used it several times to find some ideas when I felt really short of ideas. Among other things, I suspect that my dear friend Shakespeare behaved the same way. Did you want to write about love? Romeo and Juliet were invented (ahem … no.
In fact, it seems that he copied from Ovid). Was he thinking of jealousy? The Othello wrote (Oops! This too is copied, by Giovan Battista Giraldi Cinthio. Anyways, patience. I lose everything at the Bard). Did he want to talk about love, despair, madness, wit, deception, betrayal? He composed Hamlet (my favorite book, after the Iliad. Read it. There is everything, literally: it contains every possible human emotion).
Starting from a theme, we said. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. While I’m there, I teach you the mind mapping technique that Americans really like, even though I’m sure you already know it. Take a theme that inspires you: love, for example.
Write this word in the middle of a sheet; it would be preferable to do even a little drawing (do not contact me for instructions: I am a sketch in the drawing), just to feel more in tune with this creative process. After that, don’t stray from the sheet until at least ten associated ideas or drawings (characters, settings, other themes related to the basic one) come into your head. Write them on the paper, sketching radial links between them.
In the end, look at what you have created. It may seem like a jumble. But in there, somewhere on that sheet covered with doodles and seemingly inconclusive ideas, a story is hidden. Just find it.
Have clear ideas … even before looking for an idea.
Why do you want to write? To participate in a contest for fantasy, science fiction, yellow tales? And then, imagine pressing a hypothetical button inside you: “fantasy writer / science fiction / yellow on” mode. Done this, flip through magazines, read articles, go online; consult all that has been written about the genre in which you want to compose your text from which man was born.
Not so much to copy the idea from someone else (you never do this. First because you are not Shakespeare. Second because it is not well. Third because it will not help you if you intend to grow as a writer. And fourth because you are sure that they will discover you), as to enter the right mood, learning to eat bread and literary genres and to reason as a serious writer does.
If, instead, you have to write an article for a blog or a newspaper, go to random, jumping from one news story to another until you find the right topic that, for some reason, resonates with an irresistible echo within you.
This point is linked to the next suggestion, which is …
… participate in many literary competitions. Or at least, even if you do not intend to participate, consult the tenders to see the themes requested.
Try to take a peek at all those who come to you at hand: you will be surprised how many topics you will find in front of you, which you might never have thought of and which, for some reason that you still cannot explain, arouse something inside you. You will see: there are dishes that are essentially useless (free theme. Oh, yes, I hate it!), But also many very fruitful.
Stories of pirates; stories of dragons; stories about the aborigines of Papua New Guinea; stories set in ancient Rome, or in a parallel universe, or on a planet that does not exist, in which fauna and flora have to be invented from scratch.
Don’t you know anything about the aborigines of Papua New Guinea? Patience! This is a good opportunity to document yourself and learn something: the knowledge you have acquired could always prove useful for that novel you have been trying to write for some time, but which languishes on page 1.254 without you knowing how to turn the plot.
Does the competition announcement require only a limited maximum of jokes? No matter, write the same if you like the theme! Once I came across a nice contest for stories of up to a hundred words.
The subject requested intrigued me, so I wrote the first hundred and realized that they weren’t enough to even sketch the character I had in mind. I went ahead: I wrote another hundred and I realized that history needed much more space to breathe well. I went on, and another ten people came to mind to work with the protagonist.
Now I am about twenty-four thousand three hundred and eight words, and I count on having written only two-thirds of the story (which, at this point, has all the air of wanting to become a short novel). See what’s the hint of the suggestion? Once you start, don’t limit your writing. Remember the Basic Rule n. 2? Writing is written. And that n. 3? Even if you start writing something that will not be useful to you right away, go ahead: sooner or later you will find the right place.
And after this second group of suggestions, we’re almost ready for the third!