Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Create an Idea File

Create an idea file. Its an essential tool for every writer. In the olden days writers used to have a little box – a shoe box worked well. The purpose of this little gem of a file was to collect information that popped into your little pea brain -- scribbled on a scrap of paper.

Every writer should have an idea file. (This means you.) Nowadays the file tends to be electronic rather than a box (although either will work.)

Collect anything that tickles your ear or strikes your fancy -- ideas, phrases, word plays, names of people, situations, snippets of conversations, etc.

The thing is – when you’re writing you can’t remember every little turn of a phrase that’s gone through your mind over that last umpteen years. When you’re in a bind and searching for a character or a phrase or an occurrence, shuffle through your idea file and see what comes up. You might just have a Eureka! moment that turns your ho-hum scene into a show stopper.

This is not cheating! This is how many, many writers make their writing seem fresh, pithy and witty.

For example, one day I got into a mood to collect funny names for people. I’m sharing these names with you not because they are great. In fact, they are somewhat stupid. But, they illustrate what I’m talking about. I cut and pasted this info directly from my “ideas” file. Laugh if you wish, but if you are serious writer you MUST play with words. You MUST come up with ideas and write them down no matter how stupid they sound at the moment. Don’t worry about complete sentences or grammar – these are NOTES – scribbles of information. Get loose. Okay, hold your breath – here are my stupid notes on types of people and their names:

Paige Tern – a bookworm

Particular Paula –Wipe the mustard off your lip. Stand up straight,

Lunatic Larry - A high maintenance person always griping about everything. Nothing is good, nothing meets his standards

Diane the Drama Queen – She is staging her own drama with you as the supporting cast

Jennie – The Gen-Xer -- It’s about me, me, me. Selfish.

Lucius - Quiet schemer, turns people against one another

Loud-mouthed Lyndon– Talks too loudly. Talks incessantly. Says embarrassing things.

Eavesdropping Earl – Has to know everything about everyone – salary, love life, etc.

Ditsy Dolly – Head up in the cloud, full of psychobabble

Freddy Friend – Jovial friend who is always borrowing things, eating your food, he peeves you but you can’t help but liking him.

Military Max – Spit and polish, by the rules

Okay, that’s enough. You get the idea? Here’s the plan. Have a few post-it notes in your wallet or purse and a stack beside your bed. If you’re high-tech get one of those little digital recorders. Then, when an idea strikes, capture it, and put in into your own personal idea file. And don’t just do it this next week – do it for many years to come. Believe me, it will come in handy later.

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