Last time, we talked about ideas, and how we might work a spark into an idea, into a story.

Today, let’s talk some more about sparks.

The spark, if you recall, is what we called that tiny seed, too small to even call an idea.  But with some care we can sprout it into an idea that we can work into a story.  In our last discussion, the spark was a single image.  Asking questions about that image helped to develop our story idea.

But what we didn’t discuss was where that spark came from.  You’ve got to have something to start with, no matter how small.

Sparks can come from anywhere.  In the last post I wanted an example, something intriguing, that would be good to further the discussion.  So I thought about it for a few minutes and that’s what I came up with.  Sometimes that will happen.

But if it doesn’t, it’s important to remember that the world around you is rife with sparks.  You may find sparks in things other people assign no importance to.  The crucial thing is to be prepared to catch them.  To push our analogy, any spark will fizzle and die if it isn’t caught and nurtured into a flame.

How do you catch them?  Here you have lots of options.  I always have a small memo-size notebook in my purse, and it’s handy to grab and jot notes in while I’m out.  You can also keep one on your nightstand in case you find something in a dream that feels like story fodder.

Most cellular phones these days have features that can be used for this.  You can use an application to write yourself a quick note, or send yourself an email with your thoughts.

Some people prefer to speak their thoughts.  I’ve known people who carried micro-cassette recorders, or their newer flash-memory-based equivalents, to catch these types of ideas.  You could even call your home phone and leave yourself a message!

The important thing is to make yourself a note of what caught your attention, and come back to it later when you’re ready to ask questions.  A particular bit of overheard dialog, a peculiar piece of action seen from afar–any number of ordinary things can spark an idea.  All you have to do is make sure you are prepared to catch them when they fly.

I hope this helped you get started! Looking for more? Here are a few resources I can recommend with no hesitation, because I have used them all myself:


Looking for specific guidance on plotting that will get your ideas from vague sparks to a complete story road map?

This is it. I love all of Holly Lisle’s Clinic series. I own them all, and I whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone who is serious about writing things other people will want to read.


But for even more…
This is “the one” from Holly Lisle–“The One” that’s going to get that vague story idea out of your head and into finished form better than anything else. She’s going to teach you more than just writing this story though–she’s going to teach you systems to help you write, anything, always, from now on. She’s also going to make you work, hard.

This is Boot Camp For Writers.

How do I know? I’ve taken the course 🙂 And I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some of the things you learn you will use over and over again, some you will try once and set aside. And you’ll have a whole toolbox full of things to use when you need them.


And one more that I’m so excited to be able to recommend to you…I’ve been waiting literal years for Holly to come out with this course, and when she did I bought it immediately. I’ve just started it, and I’m already so glad I bought it. It’s going to be work, but I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

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