March 18, 2011

Repost: How to Get Great Ideas and What to Do With Them

Each of us has a creative side. You wouldn't be reading this if you didn't. It's that little voice in the back of your head that throws out ideas. I call mine my Muse and I've talked about her before. (Yes, my Muse is a she.)

I was thinking about what makes my Muse "sing". Typically, if your creative voice is on, your cognitive, logical voice has to be turned off. If you're familiar with right-brain, left-brain research, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Your left brain has to take a back seat if your right brain is going to have any say. (Sometimes transition is pretty quick. There are exercises you can do to help with this.)

So how do you hand the microphone to your Muse? How do you turn off the left brain?
By doing something mundane, everyday, or mind-numbing. Sounds fun, right?

My Muse hates to be bored, so when the left-brain turns off, she steps forward and tries to make things interesting. (This is why TV usually isn't a great way for me to brainstorm. My Muse is already entertained.)

So if I need some good ideas, I have to do something like fold laundry, go for a walk, rake leaves, stare at a blank computer screen, or try to fall asleep. (Unsuccessfully. Usually. I do get some awesome dreams on occasion.)
It's darn inconvenient, but I get my best ideas as I'm drifting off to sleep. (A great reason to keep a notebook handy on my nightstand.) For example, last night I was trying to sleep while my husband was reading with the light on. And a voice came into my head. Not a literal voice, just words that had personality. And the personality wasn't mine. I had struck gold!

Unfortunately, my daughter had run off with my notebook. I didn't go and look for it and of course, I don't remember the whole thing. But I'd like to share my train of thought and the words that I do remember.

I was thinking about how to begin my story. I have a premise in mind and several scenes planned out, so I wasn't starting from nothing. My mind drifted to books that I love. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is my favorite and it's young adult fantasy, just like Phantom. Ella Enchanted started just outside the story with the first-person narrator talking about something that happened before the story actually begins.

The other book I thought of was The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I loved this series. It was the series I wish I had written. Anyway, the book starts with Percy (the main character, also in first person) talking directly to the reader. He tells us something about the main theme of the book and beautifully melds his world with ours.

So then I moved back to my book. I'm pretty sure I want to do first person. I write better characters and cleverer detail that way. I wanted to begin my books like Riordan and Levine did.

That's when my Muse sang. (Not literally. I'm not crazy.)

The words for the beginning of my story popped into my head. My memory only recalls bits and pieces, but here's what I have:

My school is haunted. They should have seen it coming, building a boarding school where a prison used to be.
That's all I remember. Sad, huh?

So let that be a lesson to you. It's always worth getting out of your nice warm bed to go get a pen and pad when an idea hits you. Make yourself do it. You won't be sorry.

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