Week 2, Step 2: “Getting an Idea”

There are those of us who have creativity flowing out of our fingers. We seem to have an over-abundance of ideas, characters, story-lines, or just ideas to making our lives and the world around us better. Then there are those of us who have talent but can’t come up with anything to write, or can’t seem to settle on a good idea. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. I’m not the most creative person in the world, but I’ve also never gotten writer’s block. Those of you who are writers are probably out there saying, “Lucky!” Well… I would say “blessed” would be the right word to use there, because I can honestly say that it’s not my own doing.

There’s two really big reasons why I don’t get writer’s block. The first is that since I’m writing a series of four books, if I can’t seem to think of an idea for the book I’m currently working on I can just go on to another book and come back to my current book another day. But the second and most important reason is because my work is based on the Bible. My plot-line has already been written by the best writer in the whole universe – God! My job is simply putting together the puzzle pieces and intertwining my characters’ stories into what God’s already written.

For those of you who, like me, are writing historical or Biblical fiction, our job is a bit easier. For those of you who aren’t, you might be having a tough time. Let me tell you what I do to find inspiration and give you any suggestions that I’ve heard on how to get ideas.

First of all, I get a lot of my inspiration from God. God is the one who gave you the desire and the passion to write. And since He gave it to you, He obviously wants you to use it! So here’s my first suggestion:

Pray a LOT! Pray every single day before you write! 

Unfortunately, I don’t do this every day. There’s days that I’m so busy I forget. But thankfully God always brings my focus back on Him and He prods me to pray, especially when I’m stuck or confused. I can assure you that God’s inspiration is so much better than our own. He wants to give good gifts to His children, and He will want to help you get a new idea or write something better in your story.

I remember one day when I sat down to write. I had time to kill, but I honestly didn’t know what to do next. I knew that SOMETHING had to go into a certain chapter I was writing before I moved on to the next chapter, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. So I prayed. I said, “God, please write through me today and write whatever you want.” I started typing and wrote several pages.

A few days later I looked back at my work. I was surprised. It was actually very well written! But then something else took my breath away. I didn’t recognize what was on the paper. I actually didn’t remember writing a whole section of my story! But as I read it, I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s still one of my favorite parts to this day. It’s the part in my story where my main character, Jarah, is having a hard time loving and respecting her mom. She sees her older, prettier sister (who, by the way, has a very bad attitude) getting the love that Jarah wants – even though she’s the “good” daughter! Jarah is getting pretty angry and upset when she actually hears God’s voice speaking to her. He brings her a message of hope, comfort, and joy. It still makes my heart skip a beat to read that part, simply because I feel that it’s actually God speaking to me and not something that I wrote of my own accord.

So that’s my first suggestion for you all. Here’s my second suggestion:

Narrow down your options and research your genre.

As I mentioned, those of us writing historical or Biblical fiction have it a little easier because we already have our plot-line written for us. But then we have other troubles, like making sure everything is accurate and everything lines up with the historical/Biblical account.

First of all, if you’re writing historical fiction, you need to figure out what time in history you’ll be writing about. You could be writing about the first century church being persecuted. Perhaps one of your characters could even meet Peter or Paul! You could write something based on other ancient civilizations, like the Assyrians, Babylonians, or Incas. (I would love to see a story of hope and redemption about the Inca people. You should look them up sometime! They were so smart and skilled, even to the point of performing successful heart and brain surgeries!) You could write a book about the pilgrims, someone during the time of the reformation in England or Europe, or about the Civil War or the Korean or Vietnam war. There are so many options! Pick a period in history that you’ve always enjoyed learning about or studying, and start to come up with ideas from there. Research it thoroughly. I’m still finding obscure passages in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that I didn’t know about that will make perfect additions to my third book! I also found a really cool Jewish legend about Hur, Moses’ friend who holds up Moses’ hands during the battle of the Amalekies (Exodus 17) that I’m probably putting into my second book.

However, one word of caution for you. I would greatly discourage you from making the main character (or one of the main characters) in your story a prominent male figure from the Bible. Moses and Aaron are both in my book, but I rarely show anything from their perspective. Why? Because I didn’t want to add thoughts, feelings, dialogue, and emotions to the characters that aren’t in the Bible. I tried really hard to make sure when I took any liberties that they were in line with how the men acted in the Bible. The last thing I wanted to do was to add anything to God’s story or make Moses and Aaron out to be someone that they weren’t. I’ve read some good books with women of the Bible as main characters (Ruth, Mary mother of Jesus, Esther, etc.) and I have less of an issue with that because the women are rarely preaching God’s word or taking the public spotlight that the men have. So adding some dialogue and thoughts and emotions – as long as they line up with the Bible – is alright with me. But still, be very careful and prayerful as you head down that path.

For those of you writing fantasy or sci-fi, you have just the same amount of benefits and disadvantages. The benefits are that your possibilities for stories, weapons, characters, worlds, and languages are endless! The disadvantages is that there is a TON of Christian fantasy and sci-fi. So breaking into the market is hard, and coming up with an original idea that’s not already taken will be a lot of work. You have to make sure that you aren’t accidentally copying anyone. I had a friend once who wrote an almost exact paragraph from “The Hobbit” into his fantasy book. The funny thing was, he had never even read “The Hobbit”! Our world is so saturated and infatuated with the fantasy and sci-fi worlds that it’s easy to copy someone’s characters or ideas without even noticing it.

When you start to write your fantasy or sci-fi story, it would be a good idea to come up with a language or some different words to describe typical greetings (instead of “hi” and “bye”), towns, cities, landmarks, weapons, machines, etc. But be careful not to overuse these. I’ve read books where so many words are in “the other language” that I get lost, or have to read ridiculously long descriptions of whatever it is to figure out what I’m actually reading. Both are incredibly frustrating. Just use a sprinkling of your new words. Coming up with some words in your language will help your readers feel like they’re in another world and will help you start thinking about your world, too.

For all of you writers, the best way to get an idea going after you pray and narrow down your options is to come up with a main character, what the main character struggles with, and then what the main character does in the climax. Once you have the main character and their struggle down, everything else will start to fall into place.

So in conclusion, pray a LOT! Research, narrow down ideas that are overused (ex. four children who get into a new world through a magic wardrobe. Don’t use that. :-) ), and come up with a main character. Then you’re well on your way!

Suggested homework:

1. Set aside time to go in your room, or outside, or somewhere really quiet and pray for a long time. Ask God for wisdom, creativity, and the idea that HE wants you to make into a book book or story.
2. Pick a genre (historical fiction, fantasy, etc.) and narrow down your options. What era are you writing in? What is your world like? etc.
3. Research about that period of history, or what your new language or world is like. Save your research for when you write your research paper or use footnotes in your book or story.
4. Develop a main character and what the main character’s goal is in your story. Have fun with it!

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  • GenevieveElias

    Thanks for your post.  I’ve wanted to write victorian/regency era fiction for forever, but hate the way that most authors forget the decorum of the era.  I will definitely be doing some homework – and following your steps.

    • hopefulstories

      I’m so glad that you are blessed by it! I’ll look forward to reading what you write!