Behind the Scenes of Indie Publishing: Sparking Your Story
In my teens whenever I read a truly great book I would sit back and wonder how on Earth the author thought up such an amazing story. Since becoming an author, many of my ideas emerge when I’m dreaming or in the passenger seat of a car, but you do not have to wait for these ideas to come knocking on the door. There are endless ways to spark your own story.
Below are some are techniques used by many authors, including myself.
Create boards for your characters and worlds. You can pin everything from what your character might wear, how they do their hair, their hobbies and type of car, all the way to their tattoos and favorite food. You can look through travel boards and find a destination you love, and then search that destinations local foods, customs, national holidays, languages, and house types. Not only are authors using Pintrest for inspiration boards, many of them are sharing their boards later down the publishing line, so readers can get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the author’s process.
Most authors listen to music at some stage of the writing process (second draft and final edits for me). Listening to music can help to bring emotion into your writing and get you ‘in the zone’. Do not overlook this as a way to spark your next story. It might be one interesting phrase in a song your grandma listens to. Maybe the concept of a song strikes your fancy, or even the mood of a song. All stories begin with a single thread, and you could find yours in a song.
Confession: I always assumed writing prompts were boring. That is until, out of curiosity, I actually did one and ending up writing six thousand words of a short story that I mean to turn into a novel one day. There are websites dedicated to storing thousands of writing prompts. Scroll through and find one that makes you go, ‘hmmm’, and let the floodgates open.
A ‘WHAT IF’ list
I use a ‘What If’ list when trying to squeeze all the potential out of a plotline. You can also use this technique if your ideas bank is in overdraw. Jot down any ‘what ifs’ you can think of for ten to fifteen minutes without stopping; what if an orphan were wrongfully accused? What if every time you turned a magical hour glass the world turned with it? What if it was considered intimidating to not wear a hood? The first few minutes might be difficult, but by the end of the exercise one idea might be leading into another, or your attention might be wrenched back to that idea you had at the seven-minute mark. Guess what? That right there is the beginning of your next story!
This is a popular one. You might notice some writers put quotes or words, and poems or historical excerpts at the beginnings of their novels or at the start of each chapter? Quotes can be particularly helpful where you are pondering the themes within your novel. Sift through quote sites and find one (or more) which provoke thought. When writing my new series, I searched quotes on a particular subject—global warming—and made up a folder of 20-30 of them.
This is a great tool to develop realistic characters. If you watch closely, you might just see something that triggers your creativity. Why does the elderly woman sit on the same bench at the same time each day? How did that man lose his leg? Why is that young person in such a rush? Are they being chased? Have they committed a crime? Are they late for the interview of their life? Why is that woman hurling a bottle into the ocean? Will someone pick up that same bottle? Would that person live here, or in a distant land? Would they even live on Planet Earth? Give it a try during your next walk.
This method is tried and true. Keep track of your thoughts in a notebook (I have a filing cabinet. Scary, I know). Whether you are looking to begin a new story or finding it hard to get your brain into motion, flicking through a notebook of ideas could give you an answer. You might find a scrawled note about a four-fingered man selling pies, a scribble about a young girl who likes to wear three pigtails, instead of two, or a page in the back that holds details of a mountain you visited with your family that can only be seen at dusk and dawn .
Any small detail can become a big detail—even an entire story if you wish it to! And while you might find one piece of inspirational material to base your entire story on using the techniques above, you can also accumulate a bunch of different elements and form them into an in-depth and cohesive outline, too.
Have fun with it!
[Disclaimer: I have never visited an awesome disappearing mountain with my family.]
Contributed by Kelly St Clare, Author of The Tainted Accords and Staff Reviewer