How do you begin writing a novel? How do you build the plot, recruit a cast of characters, place them in an exotic 6a00d8341d6a8353ef015435c1dcc7970c-500wisetting and do all that in a way that will keep your readers turning the pages? In other words, where do you get your ideas? At a conference I attended, one of the presenters suggested that authors browse popular magazines for stories that interest them and build a plot based on that. She actually had us draw up a simple outline during the session. I came up with a few other fountain of ideas.

From other novels.  As a writer, you should be reading – a lot – especially in the genre you want to write. Even famous novelists report that they have been influenced by other authors, especially the classical ones like Hemingway, Dostoyevsky and others. One editor suggested you summarize a novel you enjoyed, but change the entire premise. Instead of the good guy riding off into the sunset with the girl, have her marry the bad guy instead. It could mark the beginning of a series.

From your life.  What kind of life experiences have you had? Have you ever stumbled on something you were not supposed to witness? Have you ever found yourself in a place you were not supposed to be? How did you get out of it? At the last conference I attended, one of the hosts mentioned that the fourth floor of the hotel in which we were staying was not accessible either by elevator or escalator. Why was the fourth floor cut off like that? What was on that floor? The mystery writers among us all had their antennae up.

The media. One thing we can be assured of is, people love bad news. Every book on writing will tell you that an effective story begins with someone facing a disaster or conflict of some sort. Therefore, if you want bad news, where do you turn? To the media, of course. They dole out mini plots everyday. Think of the stories that dominated the headlines last year. The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the Ebola outbreak,  the Bill Cosby rape allegations, ISIS, police shootings, and other less popular stories can all provide us with enough material for many books.

Your job. Regardless of where you work, your job can be a treasure trove of interesting stories. Your co-worker who is going through a divorce, a grandmother whose son has just moved back home, a woman who has just been diagnosed with cancer, an accountant who is cooking the books to keep his mistress. The list is endless. The idea for my first novel Coming Out Of Egypt came from when I worked as a schoolteacher. There were two sisters who, it was rumored, were being abused. In my novel, the older girl kills her father.

Your imagination. Of course, no matter where you look for ideas, you will not have a salable idea without imagination. You cannot rewrite a news item and make it read like a novel without infusing it with some imaginary details. If the situation you now come up with intrigues you and makes you want to keep on writing, then you can be sure your readers will want to keep on reading.

After you hit on an idea that sparks your creativity, draw up a plot then run it by a few friends. Listen carefully to what they say, but go with your gut feeling. You will write many drafts before you type The End. Drop me a line in the comment box below and let me know where your ideas come from.


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