Friday, March 20, 2009

Need Ideas to Write About?

Need Ideas to Write About?
By Patricia Fry

I taught five workshops on article-writing one year at the San Diego State University Writers’ Conference. And I received the same questions that I get from freelance writers everywhere I go: “Where do article ideas come from?” “How do you come up with all of those article ideas?”

Novelists are sometimes stumped when it comes to ideas to incorporate into their stories—you know, those little sidebar events, activities, happenings, comments or a different perspective that can add interest to a story.

Here’s one way to find the ideas you need in order to create more interesting articles and stories:

Start by getting up off the sofa and out into the world. Well, you have my permission to sit on the sofa long enough to look through the calendar section of the newspaper. Or use your computer to locate activities and events near you. Find out what’s going on in your neighborhood, town or county, and then plan an outing for yourself and your dog, a friend or take your hubby and kids to explore some of the happenings happening around you.

So where will you go, what will you see and how could this possibly compute into article ideas or a side story for your stalled novel? Oh, my gosh, the possibilities are endless. There are quilt shows (each quilt has a story and each quilter is eager to tell it), cat shows (if you’ve never been to one, you’re in for a walk through a wonderland of fur) and motorcycle rallies (chat with some of the women riders, you might be surprised at their rather mundane or even high-power day jobs). See plays at your community theater, watch dance recitals for preschoolers, attend tee ball tournaments and talk to some of the world’s future athletic stars. Go to a popular recreation area, amusement park or zoo and just observe with pen and paper handy. If you have a writer’s heart, you will be jotting down ideas. Here are a few:

• Tips for families: play together and stay together.
• Exercise tips for promoting family togetherness.
• How to stay safe on and around the lake or ocean.
• Quick and healthy meals to take along on a family outing.
• How to prevent heat ailments in your pet this summer.
• How to choose the best family dog.
• Traveling with cats.
• Grooming tips for people who like to adventure with their pets.

Write about some of the activities and events themselves:

• What goes on at a quilt show, cat show or cooking competition?

• High dive finals make a splash in Daisyville.

• All ages enjoy glass blowing exhibit.

• Fishing derby separates the anglers from the tanglers.

• The local health fair is not for wimps.

• The Special Olympics brings out the best in everyone.

Let the activities spark some ideas:

• Teaching tee ballers a lesson in sportsmanship.

• How safe is your local amusement park?

• What inspires Special Olympians?

• A day in the life of a show cat.

• What are the fish in your area biting on?

• What percentage of people attending a health fair are diagnosed with an illness?

When you’re looking for a story, don’t miss the county fair, your city’s annual flea market, a book festival or a carnival, where there are hundreds of interesting things going on at once.

Go for the experience. Have you ever been to a marine animal park or oceanarium with a group of therapy animals (cats and dogs used in pet therapy)? What about an air show? Get an assignment beforehand and maybe you’ll land an interview with a pilot or, better yet, a ride in a stunt plane or jet.

What’s going on in your region or those areas you plan to visit this year? There are hot air balloon rides, bungie jumping, parachuting, fly fishing, white water rafting, pet parades, wine festivals, estate sales (just walking through some of these homes will awaken a flood of ideas), animal shelters, book signings and just so many other idea-rich activities and events.

One writer friend used to sit on the local pier watching people, animals, birds, inanimate objects (which sometimes become animated in the ocean breeze) and then she’d go home and incorporate what she saw and experienced into her latest short story. I remember her reading about a “cart-wheeling newspaper” at our writing group once. This idea developed one breezy day while she was sitting on the pier.

This week, shove the cat off of your lap, get out of that computer chair and go where the ideas are. Don’t miss an opportunity to have fun and to get the ideas you need for your story or articles.

Patricia Fry is the author of 25 published books, including, “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book,” “The Author’s Repair Kit,” and her latest "Catscapades, Tales of Ordinary and Extraordinary Cats.”

She is also the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network,

Visit her publishing blog at:
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Ms. Fry’s free guide to writing a Post-Publication Book Proposal can be requested by emailing her at:

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