There are many ways to get ideas for new stories, characters, scenes and settings, and the best methods are rarely planned. Here are a few of my tricks to get the imagination flowing:
1) MUSIC. This one rarely fails me. Unlike writer buddy Aaron, I almost always have music playing while I write. The nature of the scene or dialogue will influence the genre I listen to, but I like having what turns into a soundtrack going on. It helps me picture the scene more vividly and (I think) adds a bit more passion to it. When I’m on the bus, for example, I just turn on the old mp3 player, hit shuffle and see what images or pieces of dialogue come to mind. Lyrics, melody, it all works for me. Also, that way, I get “theme songs” for each book. For The Fenwith Trials, for example, it was Pompeii by E.S. Posthumus. For my latest: Play with Fire, the Rolling Stones cover by Cobra Verde (check this song out, it’s fantastic).
2) I’m not the only one to say this, but the shower is a great place for a creative epiphany. I think it’s the mindlessness, something about the frontal cortex turning off so you don’t have to plan or something, you just tap into something more subconscious. My record was about 2500 words or so of dialogue that just came to me whole. Washing dishes is another good place. Driving sometimes works, but is a little more dangerous…
3) The free-write, of course, but I find this one a little tricky so I don’t use it too often. I work with outlines a lot though, so sometimes just brainstorming triggers a few new ideas.
4) TRAVEL! It doesn’t have to be a big trip across ocean or country, sometimes it’s just a matter of getting out of the house and breaking your routine. You see things, see people, in different contexts and in different ways.
On this final note: I’m off on a trip myself over the ocean (so one of those big travels). With any luck I’ll have an outline for a whole new book when I get back 😉 Don’t miss me too much.