One of the questions most commonly asked of a writer is: where do you get your ideas from? Short answer: ideas are everywhere. An idea is the brilliant start to everything, a comet of the imagination, a blazing possibility that will fizzle and die if you don’t pay it some attention. The bigger question is: how can I turn an idea into a story?
You know you’re a writer if a) you write and b) you constantly waver between states of acute observation and dazed daydreaming. It’s like you can suddenly see through a filter to another dimension where the shadows of ideas are always jostling past. Everything—headlines, movies, music, overheard conversations—has the potential to become a story. If you’re a writer, finding ideas will not be the problem—the hard part is choosing, working out whether your fledgling idea has the legs to carry through to a complete short story or whole novel, pushing through disenchantment, roadblocks and indecision.
The best way to prepare for this journey is to start hoarding the elements for a story. Ideas don’t have a use-by date. You have time. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a plotter (you outline before you start to write), a pantser (you let the story lead where it will) or you channel the spirits of the dead (please show me how to do this)—essentially all writers need to nail a process to make their ideas BIGGER.
In my workshop, as part of the Writing Bootcamp for Teenagers, we’ll be talking about the genesis of ideas (including some surprising ideas/beginnings from acclaimed YA books, straight from the authors’ mouths), training our minds to look for the pathways to a story and finding those elements we need to travel the whole journey. And the next time someone says, ‘Hey, I have a great idea for a story’, you’ll have perfected your response: ‘I’m looking forward to reading it once it’s written’.
Or, you know, you can just say, ‘Pffft’.
Vikki Wakefield is an award-winning author of contemporary Young Adult fiction. Her debut novel All I Ever Wanted won the inaugural Adelaide Festival Award for Young Adult Literature in 2012, and her second novel Friday Brown is a 2013 Children’s Book Council Honour Book. Her novels have been widely shortlisted for state and federal awards and published overseas in the US, UK and Germany. She would also like to mention that she failed Year 12 – convincingly. Vikki lives in the Adelaide foothills with her family, a blue-eyed dog and a nasty cockatiel.