Wake up, Polly Parrot.


What's The Idea
by Brian Plante

"Where do you get your ideas?"

This is the question, more than any other, that writers are always asked. I've fielded this one a bunch of times, and I see it asked on Internet bulletin boards often. Even other writers have asked me that one.

Beginning writers and people who want to be writers ask that question because they think that coming up with the killer idea is the most important part of writing. It's not. Ideas are cheap. I have a big box of them. Really.

When an idea that might become a story occurs to me, I write it down in a 3x5" pad so I won't forget it. When the pad is full, I take out all the little sheets and put them in an index-card box, and start another pad. When it's time to begin a new story, I grab a stack of notes from the box and review them. If an idea is still intriguing weeks or months later, I may use it as the basis of my next story.

So how cheap are these ideas? Well, I'll let you have a whole bunch, right here, for free. That's how cheap. See, ideas are not stories. The world is full of ideas, but making an idea into a marketable story is the trick beginning writers must learn. It's not the idea, it's the execution -- how you turn that idea into a story that moves the reader -- that really counts.

If you don't like any of these ideas, then read a newspaper. Listen to people talk. Read books (and not just science fiction ones). Strike up conversations with people you think might have something interesting to say. Correspond with people on Internet bulletin boards and e-mail. Take an adult education class in a field that interests you. Make an old person happy by asking them to tell you some interesting stories about their lives. All these things can give you ideas that you might be able to turn into stories.

But you're impatient. You want ideas now, don't you? Okay, okay, hit the button below and get an idea. I don't worry about giving these away because if you and I both use the same idea, our stories will be very different. Ideas are nothing -- you still have to make up the story (i.e. the plot, characters, setting, action, climax and resolution), and that's the hardest part.

So take an idea and run with it.

Copyright © 2002 Brian Plante


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