The Seeds of Great Ideas

Thanks so much for sharing your tips and sources for ideas last week. What fun to read your thoughts and insights. I’d invite you all to review those comments from time to time, considering if one or more of them might not help you expand the ways you develop ideas.

For today, though, I want to encourage you to give something a try, and that’s an Idea Journal. This isn’t a regular journal. It’s what you use as the primary repository for your idea sparks. This is specifically an Idea Journal. This is where you jot down any and everything that can be a springboard for story ideas, characters, quirks, and so on. From one word, to an idea, to whatever you need to remember the flash of genius that hit you. A few examples:

  • Names (I have a whole list of unique and interesting names from the booksignings I’ve done.)
  • Things that move you. (Odds are good they’ll move others, too. And that emotional trigger can be the seed of a story.)
  • Funny, painful, poignant moments. You don’t need to go into detail, just get enough down to remind yourself why the moment impacted you.
  • Pictures from cards, magazines, newpapers, wherever.
  • Quotes (with the source, in case you choose to use them in your book).
  • Websites you find interesting or helpful.
  • Understandings or That moment when the light goes on about something? Jot it down.
  • Food. (Hey, entire series have been built around types of food!)
  • Colors can spark everything from character traits (the big brawny guy who loves fuchia) or obsession (the women who only wears lavender) or even names for things (a rock band called Atomic Tangerine).
  • Smells. Few things elicit emotion and memory like fragrances.
  • Funny things people say or unique pronunciations. I always teased my dad because he pronounced wash as warsh, and satan as saintan.
  • Drawings or doodles.
  • A list of topics you want to write about some day.

And on and on it can go. Like I said, any and everything that will spark an idea. You may be surprised what an invaluable resource it will become.

Have fun!


15 Responses to The Seeds of Great Ideas

  1. Michael Emmanuel January 18, 2017 at 4:16 am #

    These are all great suggestions, Ms. Ball. Not sure I ever considered any of the options.
    Can an intriguing novel be birthed from, say, colors? Something that would keep readers glued from A to Z.

    • Jacqueline Gillam-Fairchild January 18, 2017 at 9:14 am #

      Dear Karen: A journal is good on so many levels. It organizes your thoughts and thoughts become things. It helps you put in words…and as a writer this is something you should be doing all the time. And if you are a writer with a minimal discipline of time to write–this will get you on the track to write on a regular basis. Thank you.
      Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild–author: Estate of Mind

    • Karen Ball January 18, 2017 at 11:53 am #

      You can never tell! Remember, these are the seeds of ideas, and with the Master at work in our minds and imaginations, anything can spark a great story.

  2. cherrilynn Bisbano January 18, 2017 at 5:48 am #

    Karen, These are great ideas. I text myself when an idea hits me. When I go back and read the texts, I am reminded of concepts for my blog, book, or article. I never thought of smells, colors, or names. I will use those too. Thank you.

    • Karen Ball January 18, 2017 at 11:54 am #

      You’re welcome. Love how little things can spark great ideas.

  3. Janyre Tromp January 18, 2017 at 6:18 am #

    I have an electronic idea journal (so it’s searchable), and my favorite way to capture impressions is the notes function on my phone. It even has a talk to text function so I can “write” down ideas (like how the icicles on a roof look like jagged teeth) without causing an accident.

    And I LOVE using color to create emotion. I did an entire series of short stories based off of colors—playing with how a certain color would make someone feel. White became a sterile doctor’s office. Black the comfort of a closet corner for an abused child. Blue the tickle of water across toes.

    And, by the way, my gramma always said warsh too 🙂

    • Karen Ball January 18, 2017 at 11:55 am #

      God bless your gramma! Love what you did with colors, Janyre.

      BTW, your name will go in my name section of my own journal! Love it.

  4. Jon Guenther January 18, 2017 at 8:00 am #

    Ah… some fresh sources for the idea well. Thanks, Karen!

  5. Beverly Brooks January 18, 2017 at 8:20 am #

    Thanks – I love this idea and appreciate you writing it up for us!

  6. Henry Styron January 18, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    I love this! Thanks much.

  7. Judy Gordon Morrow January 18, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    Karen, thank you for this great post! It’s just the nudge I needed to put this into practice, so my ideas will land in the same place. I loved all of your suggestions. And you’re so right–“on and on it will go.” I’ve had snippets of dialogue come to me unexpectedly that I’ve written down. It’s so important to capture those wisps of inspiration before they vanish.
    Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing you at the Mount Hermon conference in April!

  8. Carol Ashby January 18, 2017 at 10:16 am #

    Some great ideas here Karen!

    I carry a small (3×5-ish) notebook in my purse to jot down whatever and later enter it into one of several appropriate Word files so I can find it when I need it. Between thoughts relevant to my novels, blog, or history website, things can get rather random. It’s important for me to catch ideas as they come and then sort them into the category where I can find and use them later.

  9. Sheri Dean Parmelee January 18, 2017 at 10:29 am #

    Karen, what a great idea! Thanks for sharing. I have written a couple of short stories based on people I have seen waiting for a flight. It helps pass the time while waiting to board.

    • Carol Ashby January 18, 2017 at 10:40 am #

      What a great idea, Sheri! I wasn’t writing fiction when I did a lot of business travel. This would have been much more fun than reading journal articles or working crosswords when I had a long connection time or flight delay.

  10. Damon J. Gray January 31, 2017 at 9:09 am #

    Yes! I love this piece. My wife gave me a leather anniversary journal/binder for precisely this purpose, and I take it everywhere I go.

    The list above is wonderfully creative. I’ll add one to it. I wrote an article one time based on the emotional response I have to the sound coffee makes as it is being poured into a cup.

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