Tag: creativity

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Thriller author Nicole Wilson let’s loose the secret to the age-old question, “where do you get your ideas?”

By far, the most popular question asked of authors, and, by far, the least favorite question for authors to answer. It’s not because we don’t enjoy sharing our experiences and tips to you; it’s because we barely know the answer ourselves! There’s a mysterious click in our heads that says, “Hey, this might be kind of cool.”

But, as I’ve listened to other authors explain how they get ideas and as I’ve considered how I get my own, I’ve come to a different conclusion (but possibly just as frustrating): they come from everywhere!

Honestly. It’s a matter of training your brain to pick up on oddities. “Why did that guy just dart out of the ATM line?” “What would have happened if that person didn’t stop despite a green light as the other car blew past?” “Why is this girl standing literally two inches from me and sticking her chest out?” (That last one actually happened to me over the weekend.) When you’ve picked up on something, don’t shrug it off, and don’t settle for a one-word answer. Really explore it.

For example, the one that happened to me over the weekend: Why is this girl standing literally two inches from me and sticking her chest out? Think of a few possibilities. Maybe she’s feeling insecure. Maybe she wants to assert her superiority (she was a full foot taller than me). Maybe someone paid her to stand next to me and draw my attention away from what was happening at the front of the store.

Ah. And this is where stories begin.

Read the rest…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at www.nicolewilsonauthor.com


Resources for Visual Artists: Public Domain Images

As a blogger and artist, I am constantly struggling for high quality images to use in posts and pieces. Royalties can bleed you dry, especially for something as trivial as a rant or simple blog.

BlenderDiplom has come to my rescue. These sites are filled with royalty free, public domain images that are actually high quality.

Resources For Public Domain CCO Images

Share the love in the comments and let us know some of your favorite image houses.

Obscure Folklore and Inspiration

One of my favorite quotes goes something like, “a writer is just someone who has trained his mind to misbehave.” I love that. Storytellers take bits and pieces from all the things we know and mash them around to create something new and cool.

For those of us who write fantasy, this means we have a wide buffet to choose from. Still, it can take some work to find those little-known bits of awesome. I’ve done some of the legwork for you. Here are a couple articles about obscure fairy tales and mythological creatures.

  • http://screenrant.com/grimm-fairy-tales-movies/
  • http://listverse.com/2013/03/16/10-unusual-little-known-fairy-tales/
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maria-tatar/10-lesserknown-fairy-tale_b_6755354.html
  • http://www.wonderslist.com/lesser-known-folklore-creatures/

Share your own in the comments below.

Resources for Artists: Be More Productive

We’ve all been there, needing that extra nudge to actually get something good done. Twitter and Facebook can suck you into a vortex and never let you go. We, as artists, need inspiration, tools, resources, and help with things we may not do so well (like social media marketing).

The good folks over at Creative Shrimp have put together a wonderful, catch-all list of 19 Useful Resources to Help You Get More Productive at Art. I use several of these regularly. You should really check it out.

The Future of Content: Immersive and Expansive

This post is part of The Future of Digital Content series, which discusses six traits I believe will be at the heart what content will look like in the coming years. These traits form a roadmap that lies at the heart of my research and experiments. The traits also work together, mixing and meshing, to paint a picture of how our future selves may read, watch, learn, and listen.

Read the rest of the series.

Let’s recap real fast. We are talking about what content may look like in the future. How is the line between books, television, internet, apps, and other content forms blurring? With shortening attention spans, how will content evolve?

So far, we’ve touched on five:

  1. Mulit-access – we want our content delivered in many different ways.
  2. Multi-modal – we want content that includes several forms of communication (video, text, sound, etc)
  3. Interactive – We want to take control of our destiny (or content). It should respond to us. Personalized.
  4. Collaborative – Working together with readers and other creators to build something more than we could ourselves.
  5. Social – In real live and in cyberspace, social between authors, characters, and readers.

Now, at the end, we reach immersive and expansive. My personal favorite.

Stories have universes, and we want to explore more than just the small part we see in a video or read in a book. Immersive means that we will be able to surround ourselves and explore content on our own terms. Expansive means that content will link together with other content.

To be honest, the inspiration for these traits come from Comicpalooza and other awesome scifi/comic conventions. For those who don’t know how they work, you basically shove thousands of (comic book, sci-fi, anime, and associated awesomeness) fans into a convention center for a weekend. Let the madness begin. The fans bring their favorite stories to life in really interesting ways: dressing as their favorite characters, creating new characters, writing their own stories based in the world, and creating a myriad of art, games, and other materials. This “fanverse” is not canon (not part of the official story), but often becomes just as important to the fans.

It may sound a little weird, but its a lot of fun. And this growing phenomenon can teach us about the future of content.

Expansive Content

This centers around the concept of a “storyverse,” another feature of my research into narrative identity. A storyverse is usually seen in two different ways, as the universe the story happens in and as the universe of story-related stuff in the real world. For clarification sake, I’m going to break these into two different terms.

The Storyverse

This is the world, the galaxy, the universe of the content itself. This is best seen in fiction, where you have characters playing out in a setting. The reader/audience only sees a small part of that universe — whatever the storyteller wants them to see. But, we can imagine that a character has extended family we never meet, lives in a city with unknown streets, and has lived a life beyond the 400 pages of our book. We don’t get to see everything. Most often, the feeling of a story being just part of a universe is what makes a story shine. You’ve heard of three-dimensional characters and internally-consistent worlds? This is the storyverse.

Increasingly, we are seeing storytellers let the reader into more of the storyverse through bonus features, short stories, and connected series.  In this way, we get to choose our own path as we discover the storyverse. There are extra storybits “out there” for us to play around with. For the moment, let’s stick with “cannon” or official bits of the storyverse.

These extra bits don’t have to be bits at all. Look at Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere or the new Marvel movies. In both cases, there are many stories weaving in and out of each other, connecting with  one another, and building a more complete storyverse than a single, linear story can provide. There are many points of entry and many paths through the narrative.

We can see an expansive trait easily in fiction, but it can be just as powerful in non-fiction content. Think of news articles that relate together, articles connected, and bonus features around social media. We are already seeing this everywhere and it is only going to get stronger.

The Metaverse

If the storyverse is all the official stuff of the story or content, then the metaverse is all the other stuff, the stuff outside cannon. For fiction, these are fan stories, cosplay, licensed artwork, and (most) video games just to name a few. It can (and should) be much more though. What about discussions happening around the story? I mean actually embedded in the page. What about comments and markup? These things ring even more true for non-fiction.

The metaverse is where your readers engage with the storyverse.

This is going to happen, regardless of what you do. What will make content successful in the future is an intentional plan to facilitate this metaverse. How can we encourage this interaction, this creation, this collaboration? Those are the content pieces that will win.


Immersive Content

Immersive content surrounds the audience, engaging more than one or two senses. It makes the content part of their world, part of their life. We can see this clearly already with virtual and augmented reality.

Virtual Reality, we will define as engrossing reality. Something that completely surrounds and captivates your audience. The VR headsets are the best example of this so far. Augmented Reality is the accepted term for something that adds to but doesn’t replace the audience’s perception. Things like Google Glasses, which overlay a screen onto the real world would fit here. I would add Engaging Reality in which content engages as many senses as possible, not just sight and sound. Think of interactive theatre or those wonderful scratch-and-sniff stickers.

This may all seem out there, but we are already seeing a lot of this happen. As the future becomes the present, these traits will creep into our content. The most successful — the most memorable, powerful, and effective — content will be intentional about how it is immersive and expansive.

The Path Ahead

This leaves us at the end of our Six Traits of the Future of Content. We have seen how the content of the future (and increasingly of the present) will be multi-access, multimodal, interactive, social, collaborative, and immersive and expansive. The winners of the war for attention will use these traits and create some truly mind-blowing content.

This isn’t the end of the discussion, though. These are my predictions, but no one has the crystal ball, and the future will unravel as it does. I will continue my research and my writing and we will see what happens. How the world will surprise us.

This isn’t even the end of this series! We’ve introduced some basic concepts, but how do we make them work? How do these elements fit together? What is the workflow to create these bits of awesome? Stay tuned, Bat Friends.

This is just the start and the future will be awesome!

Learning from Phantom Hearts

I have finished another draft Phantom Hearts, my intimate/epic steampunk-fantasy with a love story twist. This is a project that has a special love-hate place in my heart. I wrote my first draft several years ago while taking it through an excellent writer’s group ten pages at a time. It was my first writer’s group and one of my first (serious) attempts at a marketable novel. I was in love with the idea, characters, world, and plot, but I hadn’t yet found my voice, my style, or my process.

Needless to say I wrote 80,000 words and learned 100,000 things.

Now I’m getting ready to take Phantom Hearts back to the drawing board. Back to square two (or three) from what I had once thought was a finished/polished manuscript. What happened? I stepped away from it to write Allyson Darke (which actually is entering its polish phase) and a couple other projects. Now that I am opening it back up, I struggled with a lot of things that just didn’t seem to set right with me. More importantly, I gave it to a few objective readers and they had a lot of the same sort of feedback. My first reaction was to be depressed, quit writing, and throw the manuscript away.

Thank God for wives who believe in you 😉

I put it away again, this time for a few weeks. I thought long and hard about what the feedback was saying and what I was feeling. I came to several conclusions about the story, and more importantly about me and my writing.

I wanted to share those lessons.

1. Write Something You Would Read

At some point in the first drafts, I started immersing myself into markets. That’s not to say that I was trying to ride the wave of some fad, but I wanted to know what core elements were working, what weren’t, and where my story fit. Unfortunately, I got so carried away with it that I subconsciously changed my story, shoving in more and more elements from disparate sources to make it more “marketable.” I pulled a lot of elements from stories I wouldn’t even read myself!

Bottom line: if you wouldn’t read it, you won’t write it well.

2. Don’t Emulate Your Favorite Authors (sad-face)

When I stared writing Phantom Hearts I was just going by instinct and telling a story I thought I would like to read. About half-way through the draft, I started reading The Daughter of Smoke and Bone and fell in love with it. Without even realizing what I had done, I twisted my story to fit that story — and they were very different at their cores. Smoke and Bone was beautiful, well-written, emotional, and just left me awe-struck. I wanted to write like that. I HAD to write like that.

Except that I don’t write like that. It’s not just because of my lack of experience, but because I am not Laini Taylor. When I tried, I failed.

I’m not saying don’t learn from your favorite authors. I’m just saying don’t be them. Mix and mash with your own sense of style and story.

3. Set a Contract With Your Reader and Stick To It

The last point flows into this one. Everyone who read my manuscript gave feedback that boiled down to “the first half is awesome, the second half is different.” They were right. The first part was action packed, fast, emotional, and kind of terse. The second half (about my Daughter of Smoke and Bone phase) was slower, lovey-er, and (tried to be) richer in wordplay. They didn’t match. They felt like two different books.

It’s been said that a midpoint should be a turning point that twists the story in two. I agree it should alter the goal of the protagonist and up the stakes. However, in those opening pages, you set a contract with your reader. This is what kind of story you can expect.

You have to stick to that contract.

Where I go from now.

I’m back at the drawing board again. Now that I’ve realized I tried to turn my story into a bunch of things its not, I can strip that fat and tone it into an awesome story.

And I’m really excited!

Be true to yourself. I know it’s cheesy.  But its the truth.

(Six) Techniques to Inspire Creativity

We all know that creativity is hard, especially when you are staring at a blank paper. Here are a few techniques that should help getting those creative juices flowing, inspire problem solving, and be a lot of fun!

Where do ideas come from? Well, its 10% magical inspiration, 20% luck, and 70% creative problem solving. I”™ll admit there is nothing more exciting than that initial flash. You see something that sparks your brain and in just a couple heartbeats you have a powerful scene, an intriguing character, or an entirely new world.

And it”™s all yours.

It”™s beautiful.

Now what the hell do you do?

That”™s where the 70% comes in. How can you get from brilliant flash to fleshed out story idea? How can you get those creative juices flowing in the first place? Here are six basic starting points, or things to remember. This isn”™t “12 steps to a more successful sandwich” or some other pop-psychology, self-help book. This isn”™t an exhaustive list of rules that will make you the next J.K. Rowling or Steven Spielberg. These are just concepts that have helped me (and many others) get from blank sheet to story draft without wanting to jump off a mountaintop.

1. Clich̩Ӫs

Whenever you are thinking creatively, write down your ideas in a sentence each. Don”™t stop at one, force yourself to write down five, six, even ten solutions to your problem. Most of them will be crap. Some of them will be bizarre. A few might even cause more problems than they solve. That”™s totally cool. Remember: the first three things you think of will be what you saw on TV last night, or read in a book last week, or heard on the radio. Simply cliche. Solutions four and five will start to be original, but might be unorganized or confusing or bizarre. It”™s only after you”™ve let your brain spit out these misfires that you force your creative self to come up with something original. You”™d be surprised what your mind can do when you challenge it.

B.T.W. ““ that technique came from Walt Disney. I”™d say he knew a thing or two about creative ideas.

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Where Good Ideas Come From

Where do good ideas come from? It’s an age old question that boggles most of us. Artists (including writers, photographers, designers, etc.) constantly struggle to come up with good ideas to keep their work fresh, challenge themselves, and produce great stories. But if we don’t know where good ideas come from, how can we foster our creativity?

In this talk from Steven Johnson, given at TED, he discusses this very thing.

 People often credit their ideas to individual “Eureka!” moments. But Steven Johnson shows how history tells a different story. His fascinating tour takes us from the “liquid networks” of London’s coffee houses to Charles Darwin’s long, slow hunch to today’s high-velocity web.

Steven Berlin Johnson is the best-selling author of six books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience. His forthcoming book examines “Where Good Ideas Come From.”

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12 Ways to Spark Creative Ideas

This is a great blog post from www.createdbyspark.com. These are eight simple ways to get those creative juices flowing. These tricks will work for anyone who wants to be a little more creative, not only certain mediums. So no matter how awful creative block feels, push through it and be intentional. The next break through is just around the corner.

A sneak peak:

1. Expose yourself different design mediums

This is probably the easiest, most effective thing we can do to spark an idea. We know that staring at a computer screen all day long can really wear you out after a while. Refresh your creative brain cells by: going to a movie, seeing a band, drawing thumbnails on paper, or painting a picture. [More]

2. Try color combinations (or any combinations) as the starting point

This isn’t just about colors for designers or visual artists. If you are a writer, put two different characters in a scene. A musician could try two styles of music. Whatever your medium, let the strangeness of the combination push your creative boundaries. Even if you don’t use the scene, you will train your brain to think differently.

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