Orson Scott Card tells us “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”
Steven James once wrote, “Creativity isn’t seeing what no one else sees; it’s seeing what anyone else would see—if only they were looking. New ideas are born when we view life from a fresh perspective or peer at the world through another set of eyes.”
The key in these two quotes is to be looking. Looking at the world and the people around us. Where writers differ from the “normals,” as Brandilyn Collins calls them, is the perspective with which we explore the world.
Writers observe and collect smells, sights, city streets, country roads, slashing sleet and gently falling snow. Writers are people watchers. How a mother and child interact. How a young couple shows affection. How an old couple shows years of the experience of love. How a stylish business woman tromps through the grocery store after a busy day—zipping her buggy up and down aisles and around more leisurely shoppers, tossing items in without seeming to look at them, while trying to keep a cranking two-year-old occupied at the same time.
We writers are always on the lookout for story ideas. We’re not stalkers. Not really. We’re observers. To a writer, everything we see is a potential story, if we let our mind explore it. Every person is a possible character—a hero or heroine, a sidekick, a villain, comic relief. Just as every color is available to a painter, everything in the world is available to us.
But, as Card and James note, perspective is what sets a writer apart. We all see the same things. Writers see them with the view that each thing, each person, each event contains the inspiration for a story that needs to be told.
Share a time when you observed something and you could not wait to write about it.