Writers are creators. We create characters, families, communities, worlds, and conflict. Sometimes all elements magically come together to create a story, but often we complain about being blocked (Writers Block) or that our characters are two-dimensional . . .or the story simply isn’t exciting or interesting enough. Too mundane. Too clichéd. Or, too predictable.
It’s happened to me. Sometimes I manage to come up with the elements that create a story that is different and memorable. But not always.
Last week I was cleaning out some old files and found notes I’d made when I taught a class in creativity. Here are a few points I made back then (that are still true).
- Creativity occurs whenever we have to find a new solution.
- You might fail.
- Be willing to fail.
- Creative people have a lot of bad ideas. We learn from them.
- Edison didn’t consider the 9,000 tries before he created the light bulb failures. For him, those 9,000 were learning experiences.
One thing I learned when I first started writing is that our subconscious often has the answer. I would run into a problem in a story and just couldn’t think of a new, original solution. But then I’d go do something different (wash the dishes, take a walk, take a shower or bath) or simply go to bed (and hopefully to sleep). To my surprise, while I was doing something unrelated to writing or while I was sleeping, the solution to the problem would arrive.
Creative people learn to trust serendipity and their subconscious.
There are multiple ways to trigger creative ideas. In fact, over the years I’ve written several blogs that address this topic. (You can use “Search” in the upper right hand corner of this blog to find those past blogs.) Last Saturday, however, I learned a new method.
The Mid-Michigan RWA Chapter’s monthly meeting included a program involving Tarot cards. Via a two-way video session, Arwen Lynch (see note below) presented how to use Tarot cards to develop characters and plot ideas. Ms Lynch didn’t use the cards in the traditional “We will do a reading” way. She had various members of the group take a card and then she gave examples of different ways the writer could interpret the card (or any number of cards) in order to stimulate ideas.
Take for instance (and this is my idea, not Ms. Lynch’s) the death card. This card could represent:
- Someone is going to die in the story. (That’s probably what I would pick for one of my mysteries.)
- Or, something my character hoped for or was trying to achieve is not going to happen.
- Or maybe the death of someone in a character’s past is influencing how he/she now views the present situation.
Or . . .
- This plot stinks, I need to kill it.
Lynch’s point was the writer simply views the message of the card through his/her personal interpretation, so the same card could trigger multiple ideas for different people or different stories.
I liked this idea, but I doubt I’ll go out and buy a deck of Tarot cards. What I like to do is simply start writing down different ideas of either why a character would act a certain way or what might happen in the story. I give myself permission to write anything and everything, logical or totally stupid. (And I don’t worry about spelling.)
I can write these ideas down in a linear fashion, one after another (I think either Donald Maass or Evan Marshall said somewhere around the 15th idea you’re starting to come up with creative ideas) or spiraling out from a central question. The more possibilities I list, the more I have to work with. (However, I’m not going to try for Edison’s 9,000.)
What do you do to trigger ideas?
*Check out Arwen Lynch on YouTube. She has several videos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LN6wExgNs4