by Jill Williamson
But how do you decide what to write next? Especially when you so loved your recently completed work in progress. Sometimes it feels like no book could possibly top the one you just finished, and the idea of trying to start fresh is daunting.
Here are a few tips to get the brain working and the ideas sparking.
1. Combine two unrelated things. This is a trick I learned from Stephen King. In his book, On Writing, he uses the example of "murder and mayhem" and "prom" combined to come up with the book Carrie. This is a really clever way to brainstorm. Add to this a trick I learned from fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. Combine the "familiar" with the "strange." So, for example, when you combine those two unrelated things, make one familiar to your readers and one totally weird. Be sure to run these pairings past your cliché-o-meter and your it's-been-done-already-detector. Boarding school might be somewhat normal to readers and being a wizard might be strange, but when you combine boarding school and wizards, we all know why that story wouldn't be the best idea you could come up with.
What ideas can you come up with combining cherries and fire?
2. Ask some "What if ... ?" questions. What if a boy could fly? What if a girl could burrow through the soil like an earthworm? What if a dog spoke English? Your imagination is the limit.
3. This next idea was inspired by Stephanie's post on plot twists. Using the free character downloads from the Go Teen Writers book, combine some archetypes, phobias, hobbies, skills, or traits to come up with some interesting types of people. For example: a painter girl who's afraid to go outside, a priest who rides a Harley Davidson motorcycle, a boy who tells bad jokes ... anything you find interesting and different. Make up five unique characters and write them down on individual index cards.
Next use Georges Polti's 36 plot types and pick five that you like. Write your five down on five separate index cards.
And finally choose five locations. This could be anything from Georgia to Madagascar, from the moon to a made up planet, from a high school cafeteria to a corporate board room. Be creative and varied and write the five locations on separate index cards.
You should have fifteen cards. Now mix and match, choosing one character, one plot, and one setting and see which pairings you like. Then sit down and write a page or two about that pairing. Then do the same for the other four pairings and see if you find a story idea you like. Here's one of mine:
Did you come up with something fun for cherries and fire? What interesting combination did you come up with from tip 3? Also, feel free to share some ways you come up with new story ideas.
We've had some really great writing space photos coming in from you guys. We'll share some of them over the weekend!