In my first attempt at writing a manuscript, I picked a scenario that took place on earth some three hundred years in the future. I thought it was Science Fiction. It’s future, right? Must be Sci-fi. I showed it to a kind agent who asked me if I read a lot of Science Fiction, and I had to answer that no, I didn’t read very much in that genre. He suggested that I write in the genre I like to read. I protested that I like to read almost everything (except sci-fi, I had to admit). He suggested I take a look at my bookshelves at home. Clever agent.
I went home and looked; sure enough, sitting right next to the dog books, I buy and cherish urban fantasy, with epic fantasy a strong also-ran. Okee doke, I decided. Next book will be Urban Fantasy. But what to write? I don’t want to write what everyone else is already writing. I want to be original.
I started thinking about my favorite stories, and began brainstorming images and words that intrigued me from my own personal past and present. I wrote them down. More images came to me and in a few minutes, I had a whole page of words that filled my mind with vivid imagery. This was beyond cool. Not only did the exercise capture words and images, it captured feelings and moods that were exciting to me, personally. These ideas are fantastic and unique to my experience, not another take on zombie wars or vampire romance (Not that zombie wars and vampire romance aren’t fabulous, they are! I just can’t think of anything new to contribute that hasn’t already been done better by someone else already).
This method isn’t new or unique to me. Ray Bradbury (Zen in the Art of Writing) talks about using poetry and images to spark ideas, as do many other authors in their books on creative writing. I now try to do this exercise at least once a week. I also use it to develop character profiles, locations, moods, and even themes for the story I want to write. For me, it works, and what I come up with is creative and all my own. Give it a try.