It doesn’t matter if you write fiction, nonfiction or poetry—writers pretty much base everything upon their own imagination. Imagination is triggered by things we’ve seen, learned or actually experienced.
In the beginning, we have a whole basket full of ideas to be developed, but eventually we work our way through. Then what? How to come up with fresh scenarios and characters? Here are a few questions to ask yourself and steps you can take:
Are you a creature of habit?
It has been aid that you can drive all day long and never leave the boundaries of Los Angeles. So, o you take the same route from place to place every time you travel between destinations? Do you have favorite restaurants and limit yourself to what you know and love? Do you have a definite look in the outfits you wear, tunnel-visioned taste in the authors you like to read…the list could go on and on. People tend to stay with what is comfortable or go to the same places and do the same things because the expectation is predictable–we know where to turn or how something will taste, or we wear the same styles because we always feel good in certain types of clothes.
Imagine you’re writing a scene and the area is one that is so familiar you can navigate it with your eyes closed. You drive the same route every time so it’s easy to describe the streets, the houses and where the characters will go. Ah, but now you have a problem. Because you’ve determined that the series will always take place within these boundaries, the fans of your series know it almost as well as you do. That’s becoming boring. There’s nothing unexpected anymore in the surroundings.
Does everything fit neatly into your realm of experiences and senses? Break the mold.
It’s time to experience new things so you can write about them. That doesn’t mean you have to leave your comfort zone or take an ocean voyage, although there are several drives and restaurants along L.A.’s beach area for a change of scenery. This is such an easy solution for a myriad of creative information, that it’s one of those things we don’t even think about doing. For the next six times, take a different route. It doesn’t matter if it takes a little longer. In fact it’s better if it winds through unfamiliar territory. Observe everything with a writer’s eye on each of these trips. Now you have a whole new basket full of ideas you can use while staying in the same neighborhood.
The same thing goes for the food, the clothes, the books and everything else. If you’re basically a plain food person, try the Indian or Thai or soul food restaurant you’ve passed a hundred times. Even if you don’t like the food, now your protagonist will know what it tastes like and what it feels like to be inside the establishment. And, who knows, maybe you will have discovered a new love. Do you always dress in muted tones? Try adding some vibrant colors and think about how you feel when you look at yourself in the mirror. Again, those are feelings you can transfer to your characters. The feelings can be good or bad, but they will be authentic.
See how other writers venture into new territory. Try reading books or seeing movies in different genres.
I write mysteries and I love reading them, so most of the books I read are some form of mystery. A while back I did a Spotlight interview with Jeri Westerson who writes medieval noir mysteries and her books sounded intriguing. It was almost as though she created a subgenre of her own, or at least one I hadn’t heard of. I will read The Demon’s Parchment because it sounded fascinating. Will I try to write historical mysteries after that? Absolutely not—it’s not my thing. But I’ll stow it in my memory and maybe one of my characters will be a history buff, or perhaps something they read in a historical mystery triggers suspicion about something happening in modern times. You never know how you can use information once you’ve absorbed it.
Are you at a loss to develop new, interesting characters? Talk to strangers.
That doesn’t mean to just go around scouting up people on the street to talk to. But don’t be shy about making contact with the person sitting next to you in a restaurant, on a plane, in a movie waiting for the show to start.
Granted, strange things sometimes happen in L.A. and here is one. Many years ago, my brakes on a new car gave out on Pacific Coast Highway and I rear-ended the car in front of me through no fault of my own. Instead of both of us shouting that it was the other one’s fault, the couple in the other car understood when I explained how the pedal went to the floor and nothing happened,.
As we talked we discovered we liked each other and became friends through the accident. The friendship lasted for several years. They were people I wouldn’t have normally met in my everyday activities, but I loved hearing about their life and they were anxious to know about mine. It turned out Kay’s father was a famous musician named Goerge Van Epps who was called the “father of the seven string guitar.”
I hadn’t thought about this for many years until it suddenly came to the surface as I was writing this article. That incident would make a scene in a book or story. What an interesting concept for a scene–becoming friends as the result of an accident.
If you open up your mind, you can keep your ideas fresh without leaving your “own back yard.”
For more information about Morgan, visit her website: www.morganstjames-author.com
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