Feeling creative but not sure where to begin? Sometimes the hardest thing is finding an idea for a story that is fresh and original. Here are my top sources of inspiration for those moments when the imagination needs a bit of help getting started…
- Snatches of overheard conversations. In a shop, a café or at a bus-stop, it is often possible to overhear little bits of conversation that are fascinating and mysterious – or sometimes very funny! You could use a moment like this as dialogue to start your story, or it might even provide you with an idea for a whole plot! I once got a brilliant – and very weird – idea for a novel from a few seconds of overheard conversation between two teachers (I haven’t written it yet, but I will one day…).
- Lost items or things you find in second hand shops. Old things often feel as if they have stories attached to them. A well-loved child’s toy or a book that has a very personal message written inside the cover could give you the idea you need for a wonderful and very moving story. My first novel, Moth and the Nightingale, is partly inspired by a First World War soldier’s bible I found in an antique shop in Norfolk.
- A painting or photograph. Take inspiration from art! Paintings and photographs often capture a powerful, beautiful or unusual moment. Try looking up images of a particular place or thing (as inspiration for writing, I find pictures with people in them are much more useful than pictures without) or set about investigating the work of a famous artist whose style appeals to you. Find something that grabs your attention and suggests an interesting story.
- Dreams. Whether they’re the sort of dreams we wake up from, or simply idle daydreams, our unconscious minds are often capable of providing us with some wonderful (and very strange!) ideas. If there’s an idea you find particularly enchanting or frightening, the chances are it might make your readers feel the same way. Try developing a powerful dream into a story and see if it works!
- Things you see from a train. I don’t know why train journeys are so great for getting ideas for stories, but there really is something magical about whipping through the landscape, through villages and towns and countryside, getting glimpses into so many thousands of lives… A train journey can also be very restful, allowing your imagination a bit of time and space to get working. Take a pen and notebook with you on your next train journey and let the magic happen!
Where do you get your inspiration from? Tell us any of your favourite tricks to get the imagination going, or whether any of our top tips has helped you to get started with your own story!
Lucinda Martin’s first novel, Moth and the Nightingale, is being published by Chicken House in 2016.