Tuesday, July 28, 2015

At Your Fingertips: Overlooked Tools of the Writer's Trade

Overlooked tools of the writer's trade

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 which 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 subscribe to the local paper and occasionally pick up the Sunday edition of a larger publication out of Little Rock. 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! (I file the articles I cut out and also keep a running inventory, separated by subject, on the computer.)
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  buy the cheap, colorful notebooks at a local craft store and use them faithfully. (It also gives you something to do if you get stuck in a boring meeting!)
 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. But I have a small cassette recorder which continues to labor faithfully, asking only for occasional fresh batteries.
5) This from a former 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!

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