Sources of Inspiration
Do you keep a journal? A note book with ideas for stories, scenes, sketches, characters and plots? Most of the writers I know do and it is something that even more will recommend.
I have two or three books that I keep to hand; one for general ideas and others for specific stories that I am working on at any one time, just in case I get inspiration or ideas for scenes or plot points that I might be struggling with.
I also use a notebook app on my phone that I can call up at anytime to jot down ideas. This is ideal as ideas can spring up at any time and anywhere, and I pretty much have my phone on me at all times. And it looks less suspicious than talking into a dictaphone!
I recently made it back from a break in the Lake District in the north of England; a pretty normal kind of holiday for a family with walks, parks. outdoor pursuits, swimming and enjoying the local cuisine. Although there may not be time for as much writing as I would like, there was time for inspiration and generating ideas.
In just a few short days I made several notes, some of which may just be observations, some may be ideas for scenes, characters or whole movies. I have no idea if I will use any of them yet but I now have them in the bank. Or you can use them, I don’t mind – different notes will inspire different people in different ways. If any of these observations speak to you, why not have a play, and let us know how you develop them.
- On our first day, walking through one of the local villages, I spotted a Japanese man walking the same path but with a flannel/face cloth draped over his head. It was raining, so I suspect it was something he had to hand just to try and keep the rain off for a few minutes but is there another reason you can think of for this action? Is he hiding something? Is it for a bet? How could you work this into a scene or a short story?
- We saw an impatient driver try and skip around the back of a reversing bus and then get out of his car to start an argument with the bus driver as if it was his fault. Is this a scene in your story? An inspiration for characters? Or perhaps even an inciting incident that you can build a story around?
- I saw an altercation in a car park between two people trying to drive in opposite directions down a one way track. An altercation that occurred in two different languages. Comedy?
- In some parts of the lakes, there were warnings about Blue-Green Algae that is a danger to animals and can also be unpleasant to humans. Infection horror?
- On a cruise down one of the larger lakes we heard about a house that was owned by a shipping businessman who also played a part in the evacuation of Dunkirk; and
- Another house that was owned by a man involved with the slave trade. Heroes and Villians.
- The Lake District is also extremely popular with Chinese visitors, as is the traditional English treat of Fish and Chips. Could you build a comedy around tourists seeking to feed their addiction to fish, chips and mushy peas?
- Because it is a very popular tourist destination the Lake District can also be a little pricey. In some places you even have to pay 40p to use the toilet. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but for a family of four, with a few too many cream teas inside them, it can get a little expensive. Perhaps a comedy sketch for a desperate tourist with nothing but a credit card? Or perhaps a whole film about rival toilet companies trying to rule the most territory?
- As is often the case on the M6 motorway in the UK, there were traffic jams a plenty on the way home. Cars, nose to tail for miles on end. Why? What is the hold-up? Road works? Accidents? Boooring! How about a crashed alien spaceship? A meteor? Or good old reliable Zombies? Perhaps a tale about a group of people in the jam interacting as they wait and the slow decline of relationships as they go feral. It could be Michael Douglas in Falling Down, or something more claustrophobic with just one vehicle?
Ultimately, these are just random notes I made over the course of four days. They could well be useless in the long run, or they could lead to something more fruitful. Either way, the purpose of having a notebook is served. I am making notes, jotting down ideas and thinking about how they could be developed. And this is just from observations walking around, you can also find inspiration in the news, on the television, in books, from conversations and from the constant stream of material on the internet.
Regardless of where the ideas come from, jotting them down and playing with them is a great writing exercise that will help you develop concepts and stories. The more you do it, like any skill, the better you will become at it and, eventually, that one great idea will find it’s way through.
So, if you don’t have a notebook (or similar tool) why not try using one? Whether you find the next great screenplay or not, you should be able to have some fun trying.
For some more writing exercises, check out Shaula Evan’s website.
How do you use your notebook?