Sunday, March 14, 2010

Resources for Writers #9: At Your Fingertips

Books and websites are wonderful resources, but this week I thought I'd mention a few things slightly removed from those. I can't claim ownership of most of these ideas, but I like the old saying, "I am a part of all that I have met". So here goes.

1) Keep a camera in your car. This idea came from a good friend in upstate NY who takes fantastic pics and often shares them with me. From the deer in her backyard to places of historic interest, each picture can bring something to mind that might evolve into a story. Recently, while doing an errand, I pulled over and took pictures of a deteriorating barn/stable which had probably been top-of-the-line in its day. Across the road stood a new, bright red state-of-the-art structure. It only takes a few minutes to stop and snap.

 2) Read the newspaper, preferably the Sunday edition. I don't subscribe to a newspaper since I get my news online, but I do treat myself to the Sunday paper. One of the columns I hone in on is "On This Day in History". What parallels to contemporary situations can you draw from something that happened in 1821? You'd be surprised!

3) Keep a small notebook in your purse. Use it to jot down descriptions of people you see, for example, sitting in a restaurant, snatches of conversations, an interesting billboard, a piece of memorabilia in an antique shop, notes about a tour. I found my little notebook invaluable when I visited Branson MO last year, and  that visit sparked my latest contracted novel, The Showboat Affair.

 4) Keep a tape recorder handy (also in the car if possible) to speak lines from songs that might evolve into ideas for stories, even titles for them. Titles of anything aren't copyrighted, as I understand the law, so writers are free to use them. I tried a digital voice recorder, but I wasn't technologically savvy enough to become proficient with it. (It went, as many things do, to the house elf, who is.) But I have a small cassette recorder that continues to labor faithfully, asking only for occasional fresh batteries, and that works.

5) This from my crit partner: Read interviews by people in particular lines of work/with expertise on particular subjects. In your writing, you'll be giving information to people not of that world, so the details that strike you as significant or interesting might also strike your reader

6) Finally, life is the greatest teacher of all, and memories, as well as feelings and emotions of the moment, can be the starting point for novels, short stories, a scene in same--or even just a line somewhere. Write them down as they come to you, and you'll end up with your own personal book of 'story-starters' absolutely free.

Hopefully, one or more of these resources will work for you!

Wednesday book review: Plantation Parade by Harnet T. Kane, a gem from 1945! I'm older than it is!


P.L. Parker said...

Good ideas, all of them. I do the tape recorder thing and I carry a note book and write down stuff. I also keep a journal with my ideas in there so I can check them out when its time to start a new story.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas! From the notebook to the camera, I've done both. The recorder, well no. LOL but I have come across really great ideas from watching TV (just some lines. or a reference to some old song sparks ideas) and even sometimes the odd bits of news will strike something. You just never know!

Mary Ricksen said...

Great ideas! But the ones I need the most is the camera and the recorder.

K9friend said...

I try and keep my camera handy. But that's backfiring on me. Now I want to get a fancier (and more expensive) model!

Beth Caudill said...

I like the camera idea. I always want to take pictures of houses because I like them and think they'd go well in stories.

Also pictures of animals and plants is always welcome.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Judy,
I like the idea of keeping a camera closeby. Unfortunately, I'm not a great photographer, but even I can manage 1 good picture out of ten.

I've gotten great ideas from the newspaper, usually from the life section. They're often odd little slice of life stories that spark a story idea for me. I also got a great idea once from the Miss Lonely Hearts column. Amid some of the angst and anger, there are some great stories.

I'm also an avid radio listener (to the CBC here in Canada which I guess is like public radio in the States). I've gotten some great ideas from the radio.