Asking “What If?” To Find Novel Ideas

Finding ideas for novels isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Yes, ideas are everywhere as long as you keep your eyes and ears open. However, are they good enough to be novel ideas?

Fiction is a genre of made-up stories. Unfortunately, animals can’t talk and dragons aren’t real. Still, there’s some truth to each and every fiction piece out there.

This can be a real-life location that’s the setting of the novel or it can be something as simple as researching sword fighting and going to war in the book.

In my opinion, ideas come in all shapes and sizes throughout the day. It’s just a matter of turning those ideas into stories with one simple question:

What if?

Mystery Month | Asking "What If?" To Find Ideas

“What if” makes you think about what could happen in an alternate universe (a.k.a. your book). “What if” makes you ponder what may possibly be. And most of this can happen through people-watching.

For example…

A young man and young woman are walking through the park. They sit down at a bench and chit-chat.

  • What if they’re brother and sister? Maybe they live in different houses with their partners and children and they’re catching up with each other.
  • What if they’re boyfriend and girlfriend? Maybe they’re talking about moving in together. Maybe an argument in unfolding.
  • What if they’re just friends? Maybe they’re two high school friends home on break from their respective colleges and they’re catching up.

Now ask: What if this happens…? This will create conflict and tension in your story adding more depth and a new direction to go in.

  • A brother and sister are catching up when one of them gets an urgent call from their mother. Something is wrong, they have to leave right away.
  • A boyfriend and girlfriend are discussing plans to move in together when an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend happens to walk by. And they decide to stop and chat with them for whatever reason. Maybe they say something their ex- doesn’t want their current partner to know.
  • Two friends are talking about their first semester of college when they realize they dated the same person the summer before going away.

It’s fun to go out and make-up stories based on what the strangers around you are doing. So, how does this imply to mystery writing?

You’re sitting in a coffee shop and there’s a man (or woman) sitting at the table opposite of you.

  • He’s sitting alone with nothing but a cup of coffee in his hand
  • He’s alone with a cup of a coffee and his laptop open and turned on
  • He’s alone with two cups of coffee

What if…

  • As he’s drinking his coffee, he gets a phone call? Little did you know he’s a detective and he just got a call about a new case or new evidence for a case.
  • With his laptop, he’s looking up news articles and trying to find evidence for a case. Maybe he’s a detective trying to figure things out or maybe he’s a civilian whose friend went missing and he’s trying to find them on his own.
  • Sipping on one coffee, he has the other in front of the second chair at the table. He’s waiting to meet someone. Maybe they come and it’s a fellow officer or maybe it’s a witness. Maybe this person has more to do with the case than the detective thought, or maybe not at all,
  • OR, he sips his own coffee constantly checking the time. After a while, he takes the second cup and either drinks it himself and leaves with it

When it comes to ideas and “what if” scenarios, anything is possible.

How many stories have you come up with by asking “what if” to real life situations? Let me know in the comments below.

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What Can I Do For You?

what can I do

Everything I do on this blog, I do for you guys.

I know the majority of my followers are writers and readers alike, so I post writing prompts to give you guys ideas. I write book reviews because who doesn’t enjoy reading? Seriously though, I also accept books from authors to help them out and get recognized for their hard work.

I also have guest bloggers on my site to promote other readers, writers, and bloggers alike. And what better way to help each other out than to promote and showcase each other? Plus, you all have different ideas and know things I don’t. You guys can teach my followers something I can’t. You guys teach me in the process.

I have plenty of other ideas to help you guys out as well as promote you guys for what you do. I’m not going to mention them now only because I don’t know when these ideas will be able to happen. Just know that I’m always thinking of you guys.

I have three specific days a week (Sunday, Thursday, and Friday) that I devote my time to working on my blog(s).

But I think of this blog every single day. I write down notes and ideas every day even if it’s not a “blogging day” for me.

I’m always coming up with new ideas, thinking of ways to improve my posts whether it’s the way I write them, the kinds of images I use, etc. I’m always trying to better my content and come up with new things that you guys want to see.

I post on here once a day, every day. That’s a lot of content to come up with.

I have my regular features on my blog. Short Story Sunday on Sundays, book reviews on Saturdays, and writing prompts on Fridays. But Monday through Thursday is a free-for-all in terms of content.

If you’ve been following me for a long time, you know all this stuff.

So–to finally get to my point–I need your help.

Instead of my trying to come up with new content ideas day-in and day-out, I need a huge favor from all of you.

In the comments, if you would be so kind to answer the following questions:

1. What do you enjoy most about my blog?
2. What kind of content would you like to see more of?

I have plenty of ideas to last me a lifetime, but I thought what better way to create meaningful content for you guys if I don’t ask you guys what you want?

Only you know what you enjoy reading about. Only you know what you want to learn more about.

Do you want more information on genre-specific writing? Need more grammar help posts? Are you interested in where I am on my writing projects?

If you have a specific post idea, I’d be glad to do it. Or try to do it, anyway.

Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee all of your ideas will happen and if it does, it might take a while. But I still appreciate your input.

I want to know what I’m doing “right” on this blog and I want to know why my followers keep coming back for more.

I’m not an expert in writing or reading or blogging or anything that I talk about on here. But I do my best. I speak from experience, I conduct research.

So I hope you’ll help me out with this little “survey,” I guess you can call it. I want to make sure I’m creating the best content for my readers!

Thanks, guys! I really appreciate it.

Inspiration Station: 6 Ways to Find Ideas

Inspiration Station 6 ways to find ideas

“Where do you get your ideas from?”

I get asked that question frequently from friends, other bloggers, and more. I never have a specific answer for them because my ideas come from everywhere and from everything.

I tell them, as long as you keep your eyes and mind open, you can find ideas all around you.

1. Movies and TV shows.

Most people watch TV in their down time–after work, after dinner, right before bed. Movies and TV shows tell stories. They have a plot, they have characters. Movies can be inspiring and spark new ideas. For me, I always get an itch to write something great whenever I watch Harry Potter.

2. Read a book.

This is pretty straight forward. Whenever I read a great book, I’m always motivating to come up with an idea that’s just as great.

3. People.

When you go out for a walk, go to the grocery store, or just stand in line at the coffee shop, watch the people around you. Observe how they look and act. You can probably come up with a story to fit those people. Just be sure not to judge a book by its cover too much.

4. Real life.

Did something hysterical happen to you and your friends that would only happen in a sitcom? Maybe something terrible happened that you’re still trying to get over. Write about it. Come up with a new ending. Twist and turn the events and make it your own.

5. Create new characters.

Base characters off of yourself, members of your family, some of your friends. Use real life people as guidelines to create a new character. Then see what kind of situations that character can handle in a story.

6. Hopes and dreams.

Do you want to have superpowers and save the world? Maybe you want to travel the world, but don’t have the money. Maybe you wish there were more hours in the day. Create stories based on what you want. We can’t extend the days longer than 24-hours, but in a fictional world one day might be 48-hours long. Think of all the possibilities if each day equaled two.

There are ideas all around us. You just need to get creative and let your imagination run wild with it.

How do you come up with your ideas?

What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada

What Do You Do With An Idea
Photo taken from Amazon.

I went to Barnes and Noble the other day and came across this children’s book, What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada.

I thought it was newly published, but later found out that it came out in February of 2014. So you may have already heard of this lovely story.

Kris and I read through the book together and it melted my heart.

It’s about a child who comes up with an idea and doesn’t know what it is or understands what to do with it.

The child says that he keeps it to himself because he’s afraid of what other people might think. Yet, the idea stays with him and won’t go away.

The idea looks like an egg and it’s the only object on the page that is colored. Everything else is black and white. The idea grows with the child as he gets older constantly following him around.

It isn’t until the child finds some confidence in himself and in the idea that the rest of the illustrations are filled with color showing what a wonderful thing an idea is.

This book has such a powerful message that I believe everyone needs to learn. As a preschool teacher and babysitter of various ages, it’s important to encourage our children to be creative, speak their opinions, and do what they believe is right.

As a writer, it’s important to roll with the ideas we think of and be creative with our thoughts. Writing is a risky business and not everyone may not like your ideas, but there will be people out there who will love your ideas and support you and your ideas.

A new year is going to begin soon. Next year will be all about you. Spread those ideas around, do what makes you happy, do what you believe is right.

Some ideas may not work out, but that’s okay. The worst kind of failure is not trying at all.

Outlining: Tips And Ideas

To outline or not to outline… that is the question.

Last week I wrote a post called, “Why Outline?” The title is pretty self-explanatory. Why should you outline your novel? I gave a list of a few (good) reasons, but ultimately the choice is yours whether you want to outline your novel or not. It’s no big deal if you decide not to.

However, if you do decide to outline your novel here are a few interesting ways to do so (if you don’t already have a particular way to outline).

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The Snowflake Method: Show of hands: who has heard of this before? I have, but have I ever used it? No. I had to do a bit of research for this one because I didn’t really know what it’s about. Basically, it’s a 10-step process on how to organize your writing. You start from a small summary of the novel and go from there. The last step is to begin your first draft.

Now I know it seems like a lot of steps just to go from idea to first draft, but the idea behind it is to start small and take baby steps in organizing your mind and thoughts.

This is to ensure you don’t miss anything while you write the story. All the scenes will be laid out for you, all the characters will be unique and have a certain purpose, and (hopefully) there will be no plot holes.

Does this mean you won’t have to do any editing when the first draft is done? Of course not.

That would be too easy.

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The Skeletal Outline: You know that pyramid thing you learn in elementary/middle school? Well, some people actually put that to good use when they write their novels.

They use this pyramid (plot diagram, according to the picture) to summarize each part. Each part being the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. By summarizing, you write certain scenes you want, describe what the characters are going to do and what’s going to happen to them, etc.

Some people use bullet points to highlight key concepts in each part. Personally, I think the bullet points would be easier. Then again, it wouldn’t be as detailed… unless you use a lot of bullet points.

Like the Snowflake Method, I do not use this method. To be honest, I don’t even think of my novels in terms of exposition, rising/falling action, climax, resolution, what have you. I just kind of go with the flow and write the scenes in order as they would go.

However, if I had to choose between these two methods, I think I would go for the skeletal outline. I enjoy making lists and the pyramid seems to do just that. Then again, I’m sure you could modify each method to make a unique one that works specifically for you.

20150124_151016Chapter Summary: This is how I used to outline. Way back when I wrote fan fiction. 11 years ago. Wow.

Anyway, I have no idea if anyone has ever outlined like this before, but it worked for me way back when. I don’t use that way now, but I still think it’s a decent way to outline your novel.

All I did was summarize each chapter. It’s that simple. As you can see from the picture, it ultimately looks like a block of letters (especially with my handwriting). The highlighted parts show a new chapter. Everything written after each highlight is a summary of that chapter.

I explain what scenes are going to be in the chapter, sometimes I add in some dialogue I would like some characters to say… I even have notes that say things such as: “foreshadowing… yay!” You know, so I remember how to write my plot so readers can figure out the foreshadowing, symbolism, and all that fun stuff. I especially make those notes when I realize I foreshadowed without meaning to. It’s like your subconscious is smarter than you.

There you have it. Three different ways to outline your novel, plus more (if you click on the links below). Two I’ve never used and one I used to use all the time. Everyone works differently and at their own pace. So the outlines listed above may or may not work for you; especially if outlining isn’t even your thing. However, it never hurts to try.

As stated before (many times, actually) I use my own method I made up. Well, I thought I made it up, but I have seen it floating around on the Internet. It’d be pretty cool if I had my own method, though. It’s different, but similar to the chapter summary I used to do.

But more on that tomorrow.

Further Reading:

The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel
8 Ways to Outline a Novel
7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story