Ideas and inspiration (How to write a novel – Part 1)

The first thing that you need to figure out while writing your story is what kind of story you are going to write about; or to be more specific what genre will it belong to. Will the story be focused on romance or will it be a sci-fi fiction or should you opt to write a dystopian fiction?

The best way to decide this is to check your book shelf and see what kind of novels are you inclined to read more. What do you love reading the most? The genre that you usually read more is the one you are pretty familiar with. Hence the best option is to focus on the genre that you love reading as then you will have enough content and ideas for a beginner, and this will also help you tune in easily into the writing process.

For example, if you are a fantasy freak, but you decide to write a mystery novel. Then in that case, the learning curve for crafting out a mystery novel for you would be pretty steep as it will not be your familiar territory. You have start with reading more and more crime novels, get familiar with the crime terminology and invest a lot of time to getting acquainted with that particular genre. You will need to spend a lot of time in researching how detectives work, what techniques they use to solve crimes, what challenges they go through, how the author keeps the suspense element strong all through out a crime novel and so on.

But in case of a fantasy novel, which you have been reading for years, a lot of the elements would have already been embedded in your subconscious. For eg, you would be already familiar with the different kinds of world building used in fantasy novels. Some which are based on legends across the world; some from real history such as that of medieval Europe, Renaissance era or Native American folklore and some may be a world totally invented from the author’s imagination. Then you would have observed the different kind of supernatural rules that operate in the fantasy world, which an author uses consistently throughout the book, almost similar to a formula. You would have also been acquainted with different styles of magic used; the tone of the characters – meaning the language they use and so on. So finally all you have to do is sit quietly, reflect, maybe meditate and you will find random ideas dangling in your mind’s cosmos. As you quickly jot down points, you find these ideas take shape into a rough outline. Hence the best practice would be to focus on a genre you are pretty acquainted with so that you can easily imbibe the elements of that genre such as the settings, the plot, the theme, the style, the characterisation, the point of view and the tone into your novel.

I for one, write a lot about fantasy since I love reading about other worlds different from ours; I love the supernatural elements in a novel, the unknown, the suspense and the magic! I also love to read stories with young people in them, love their young vibrant energy, their unjaded optimism, their dreams and their challenges of growing up. Some of my favourites are: The Hunger Games, Princess Diaries, Harry Potter, Divergent and Twilight.

Once you have decided to focus on a particular genre, you have to find an idea for your story. Many people have different ways of picking story ideas. For some there are so many that it gets difficult to choose that one particular idea that they would like to hone into their novel. And even after doing so, they are haunted by the rest of the ideas they didn’t pick up – literally so.

For the rest of us who are not yet inspired we have to go browsing for one; browse the unlimited free shop – our universe I mean. For that maybe you may have go out for a walk in the woods or the park or a beautiful natural area with a lot of trees and scenic beauty around. Listening to music, going for movies, taking a bath, spending time with children or simply day dreaming – are some other ways to be inspired. You can also draw out your own experiences in life or some special moments in your life or maybe folk tales handed down by your grandparents and so on. So basically you have to keep your mind prepared to absorb signs from the universe or let your subconscious know that you are ready to receive ideas. So keep your mind alert and keep a dream journal as some ideas may even come to you through your dreams! Your ideas may come to you as an image in your mind’s eye. Sometimes some particular setting in a restaurant or a classroom may set off an image. At other times a scene in a movie might trigger out that winning idea.

Another way to get your ideas is through research. For eg, if you are writing about fantasy, you can research a lot about mythology of different cultures or the esoteric beings in the other world like the elementals, fairies and the devas. You can also research about different forms of folk or ceremonial magic used across cultures such as Wiccans, North American Indians, Africans, Chinese etc. If you are writing about crime novels then your research will involve reading crime novels, learning about criminal terminology, watching crime documentaries, get acquainted with police officers if possible to observe how they work, checking up websites to learn about investigation procedures, DNA analysis, forensic anthropology, pathology, forensic criminology, fingerprinting and so on.

For my middle grade series, Magical Ventures of Loli and Lenny, Loli came to me as an image of a girl on a swing going up and down. Then I saw a squirrel passing by her swing in my mind’s eye which may also be inspired by the squirrels in my backyard. I also could see a pendulum moving back and forth for no particular reason. So this was one of the introducing scenes of the books. For my novelette, Redemption, the images poured to me while taking a walk and listening to music. To sum it all up, each has his own method to pick up ideas or be inspired and hence we too should find our own magic trick too.

Author:            Pratibha R DH

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