How to Get a (Totally Awesome) Book Idea

Book ideas. Where do they come from? One word: imagination.

"Yeah, but, how do I use my imagination to think up a whole story, complete with characters, setting, plot, and the whole shebang?" you're probably asking yourself. "How do I get inspired with a book know, the kind that sell, Heather?"

The answer? You use your imagination!

Get this: you're walking to your cubicle and you happen to notice Chelsea- the new office intern, attempting to make copies on the "everything but the kitchen sink" copier. You see a confused look on her face as she tries to read the button labels. She leans in closer to try and figure out where the
paper feeds into the machine and where it spews out the finished product. She lifts up the head and you witness a flash of light and then, she disappears. Nowhere to be found. Gone. Like she was never there in the first place. Even the clipboard and stack of papers she was holding with her left arm have vanished...

You figure you must actually be dreaming some strange recall of events from working long hours at the office today, because there's no way what you saw happen, actually just happened.

You walk over to the copier in order to prove to yourself that no one was even just there, by expecting to view a screen in hibernation mode. But to your surprise and horror, it's on, and it's anything from being blank. Written on the screen in front of you is a message that reads, "YOU'RE NEXT." 

Like my little story idea I literally just made up while typing up this post for you? Want to know how I did it? I took an ordinary, maybe even boring setting and used my imagination to dream up something more exciting. Something that would take the ordinary, and make it into an extraordinary adventure. It may have been twenty years (or two days) since you watched a "children's" movie like Peter Pan, but that does not mean that you have the inability to think of a wonderful thought! Maybe even one that could produce a storyline, characters, setting, plot, and the whole shebang.

No, I don't believe that about you one bit. Here, let's practice and I'll prove to you once and for all that your imagination did not die with your childhood. ;)

Imagine yourself somewhere, anywhere, at any point in time and with anyone (or no one) of your choosing. (Take a few moments to answer each of these questions so that you're ready for the next step). Got a scenario in your head? Good. Now, begin to ask yourself questions about the picture you've created.

1) Where are you?
2) Who are you with?
3) What time of day is it? Month? Year? How old are you and the people around you? Younger than you are now? Older? The same age?
4) What's your current mood? Bored? Irritated? Happy? Relaxed? Worried?
5) Why did you picture this scene in your head? What's significant about it?
...and here comes the fun part: what-if?

The "what-ifs" are what dream up the story, plot, and characters. They are the fuel for your writing engine- what gets everything moving. It's what puts life into a lifeless "body." Or what we writers refer to as the milk in the milkshake. It's what fills the outline of the story, and there'd be no story without it. Are you beginning to understand how important what-ifs are to a book idea? Excellent! I knew you were brilliant! Let's try some together. 

Take the scene you just created in your head and ask some what-if questions. 
What-if someone suddenly appeared behind your car with a gun and told you that you didn't deserve to live. What-if they said that you needed to pay for the sins of the past and that they'd been dreaming of this day since you ruined their life, this same day, five years ago. What-if they shot you and when you "woke up" it was one hundred years into the future. You're lying in the same exact spot as you were when you were shot to the ground. People are standing around you asking if you're okay. They wear strange clothing and all have silver teeth. They're human, but you suddenly wonder where you are and why everyone appears so peculiar to you. The buildings you once knew to surround the area have been torn down and replaced with smaller, all-glass looking buildings, instead of the skyscrapers you once knew to litter the skies above you. What-if you started to try and sit up and noticed you were a woman instead of a man. (I'm not referencing reincarnation here, but instead some type of clever sci-fi explanation that you'd need to read on to learn what it was. ;) ) What-if?

Or think about this one: you're playing in the backyard with your younger brother as children and everything appears to be like any typical day in the backyard. That is, until he jumps off the side of the storage shed, attempting to fly by using the contraption you both just designed, and he actually does fly. Not because of the contraption however, because the wind broke it into a million pieces the moment it was thrust off the shed on your brother's back; but because your brother suddenly had wings that sprouted from his back and were gone again as fast as they'd come. What-if?

What-if your first love came back into your life after twenty-years of you being forced to move on without them? During your first encounter together they look at you like it was just yesterday you were in love and your stomach twists as they tell you that they'd been forced by their parents to skip town all those years ago, because of a dangerous criminal case they had testified against and that had landed themselves into the Witness Protection Program? What-if your first love standing in front of you still, only had eyes for you after all of these years? What will your fiancé think? What-if?

Are you catching my drift? Thoughts inspire imagination, and imagination causes more thoughts. It's a never-ending tool-bag for coming up with story ideas, planning out the plot and creating the characters, and the best part? All of us have one!

If your imagination is rusty, or severely out of shape, start exercising it again! Just like if you haven't jogged in years, it doesn't mean you can't, it just means you need to start reminding your body what the idea of jogging is again. They even have couch to 5k apps and great stuff like that to get you back on track to obtaining that fitness goal. ;) Your imagination is similar. The way to exercise your imagination is to start using it again, by noticing the scenes around you and asking the Who, Why, Where, What, and When questions. Then put that engine into full-force by adding the what-if fuel to it. 

Interested in more tips for coming up with book ideas? Try these:

1) Take a walk and observe the life around you.
2) Listen to an old CD that's been gathering dust on your shelf ever since the mp3 player was first introduced.
3) Sit on a bench in a park, at a booth in a restaurant, or on your front porch and do some people watching. Imagine what may be going on in that perfect stranger's life and what their current struggles may be.
4) Watch a Lifetime Channel movie and think about how messed up humanity can be towards itself.
5) Write down a bucket-list for yourself and imagine if you were only given one more month to live. How would you spend that time? Would you be able to accomplish all of your goals before you kick the bucket? Who would you spend those last precious moments of life with and why? 

I hope you were inspired today by reading my totally awesome post about how to get a book idea, and that you walk about inspiring someone else because you were inspired. ;) Are you feeling inspired now? Share your inspired thoughts with us in the comments below. :)

1 comment:

  1. What if scenarios are how I come up with most of my story ideas. There's just so much I can do with questions that arise from them. Music is a big influence on my ideas too.