Archive for May, 2008

Where do you get your ideas for writing?

People starting out in the writing life sometimes ask this question.

Where do ideas come from?

I seem to have no trouble coming up with ideas for writing. They just seem to be everywhere. I usually have far too many story ideas to use myself – that’s why I often feature short story starters here on my blog.

My problem is having enough hours in each day to use all those ideas that just pop into my head. Then there are those things I see or hear or read that immediately present themselves as story ideas. The writer in me always has the “writer’s antenna” finely tuned for an idea. Here are some examples:

  1. While watching television recently there was a short item about giraffes. One short sentence gave me an idea for a children’s picture book. I can’t tell you here – I haven’t written the story which I think would be great so I don’t want anyone to steal the idea. (Sorry)
  2. I wrote a children’s novel once from inspiration received during a sermon at church.
  3. While travelling in my home state of South Australia we drove past a paddock full of lambs. From this came the idea for a children’s picture book.
  4. The phrase “Barney goes Berserk” popped into my head during a writing workshop. Who was Barney? Why was he going berserk? From that idea came the idea of a fish called Barney. I wrote a children’s picture book with that title – I’ll be sending it off to a publisher very soon.
  5. Some time ago I was thinking about my friend Harry. What if life had dealt (a fictional) Harry a severe blow? What would his life be like? A short story came from that idea.

None of these ideas may sound earth shattering at first. Each of them stayed with me long enough to germinate into a story. Sometimes that germination takes days or weeks, sometimes it may take years. When talking to an elderly relative four years ago I heard the voice of a character and knew that here was the idea for a novel for adults. At this point it is only an idea with merely a few sentences written down. One day I hope that this will blossom into a three or four hundred page novel.

Just one warning: when you have an idea for a story, jot it down. Unless you do that the idea may be lost forever.

Find an Ideas place

I recently read of one writer’s special place for getting ideas for writing. This author always had his ideas in the shower. So that he didn’t lose any ideas, he bought a waterproof notepad and pen from a scuba diving shop. If an idea comes during a shower he immediately records the idea. Brilliant.

Good writing – and may all your ideas turn into great stories.

Haiku #42: Raindrops

Raindrops on rooftops
And glistening fresh tree leaves
Are delights of spring.

© 2008 Trevor W. Hampel

All rights reserved.

Haiku #41: Heat

Heat haze shimmering
Over sun dried crisp dead grass.
Shady tree comforts.

© 2008 Trevor W. Hampel

All rights reserved.

What I am reading: picture books

One of the units I am studying at present is called Writing for children. Our lecturer is award winning author Rosanne Hawke. In our early lectures and workshops we looked closely at how to write picture book texts. Writing this kind of book is a passion for me; I love reading them and sharing them with children – and adults.

One of the things that Rosanne impressed upon us from the very beginning was the importance of reading picture books – as many as we can get our hands on. I’ve always read plenty of picture books, first when I was a teacher librarian, and then as a classroom teacher.

When I retired from teaching four years ago I drifted away from reading picture books as regularly as I used to do. Rosanne has given me the impetus and reason for getting back into this exciting and enjoyable area of books. So once again I’ve reactivated the use of my library card and I am borrowing ten or fifteen a week to read. And I’m thoroughly enjoying the activity.

There is another incentive: we need to keep a reading log of what we are reading, as well as write some short reviews of the books we read. This is a required, assessable component of the course. It is a very enjoyable part of the course I might add.

Good writing.

Good reading.