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Exercising the Writer’s Muse: Finding fodder in unlikely places

Many preach specialization today but writers would do well to take the generalist’s approach when it comes to writing. I know time is an issue as you get more and more involved in your writing and focused on deadlines. For many writers time becomes a precious commodity, something to be coveted, protected. Their world of writing shrinks. Soon writers focus only on the latest books published in their chosen genre. This narrowed view may build up their knowledge in a specific field but it can also limit their creative expansion in the world of story.

Exercising your creativity is a productive and beneficial tool that enhances the imagination. If you’re new to writing and story development, learning to find ideas and build them into viable plots is a healthy lesson. One way to keep the imagination flexible is to read outside your genre. See what other people are doing. Don’t just read the story, look for the ideas that have been extrapolated and woven into the storyline. Bestselling authors frequent the world of science as a source of inspiration. Look at the works of Michael Creighton, Robin Cook, Jodi Picoult, Dean Koontz and others. They do more than dip their toes, they bathe in the ideas of cutting-edge news.

If you’re muse is being a bit balky, why not take it to a new park to play? I looked at the Science Daily website this morning and quickly found three or four headlines that sparked story ideas. I’m sure you could find even more. To exercise your muse, pull three headlines that spark your imagination. Brainstorm the ideas. Do a quick mind map of the central idea. Pick a protagonist and give him a related goal that either supports or goes against the idea underlying the headline. Now write a quick paragraph that provides a brief story idea and contains a beginning, a middle, and an end. Repeat this for each of the three ideas.

Don’t spend a lot of time on this. The idea is to write down your immediate responses, put a character into the mix, give him or her a goal and an endgame and write. Allow 15-20 minutes max to complete each one. Your muse will be entertained, you’ll have some fun, and your creativity muscle will be flexed. As you work your imagination in new ways, you’ll find new and exciting ideas bubbling up in your daily work. Give it a try and let me know what you think and remember: think big.

Note: If you already troll the science news, move to a different pool. Try history, language, mathematics or any other that is new to you and search the news of the day.


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