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Make a Note…

June 13, 2012

If you were to ask ten different authors what they did to get ideas for stories, or even where they come up with character traits, chances are you’ll get ten different answers.

One thing I did for a long time (and should do more of now) was to take small notebook with me where ever I went. I kept this in my back pocket and would pull it out and make notes as I came across something interesting.

I travel…a lot….and end up spending several hours a week stuck in airports. It’s amazing what you can learn just sitting watching what people do and how they act. Some people move through an airport with blinders on. All they want to do is get from point A to point B. Others want to stop and look at every shop and kiosk in the concourse.

There are those who sit next to you and instantly put on their headphones and open a book. Others will sit next to you and begin telling you their life story and why they are going to Salt Lake City to see their best friend.

When you fly a lot one thing you just come to expect is delays and cancellations. They are a given and there is nothing you can do to change that little fact. I have made dozens of calls home to inform the family that I was stuck in Chicago or Denver and would be home in the morning. However, there are those who do not fly a lot and tend to think they have the ability to alter how the airlines function. I remember one such incident with a gentleman who raced through the airport to the connecting gate. I was sitting at the adjacent gate and was able to watch, and hear, the whole thing.

The gate attendant had already closed the door to the jetway by the time he arrived. Once that door shuts, it’s game over player one. There is no opening it. Yep, but Mr. I-got-to-get-on-that-flight felt differently.

What I learned watching that exchange was how quickly people can become rude when the world stops revolving around them. But, I also learned how well the gate attendant handled the situation. She was firm, polite, and determined not to let Mr. Gotta-go get under her skin.

Yep, that one made it into my notebook for sure.

These moments are golden to a writer. I will sit there and observe then open my trusty little notebook and jot down something to remind me of what I saw, heard, or experienced. Bits and pieces become parts of a story or elements of a character’s personality.

In today’s world, you don’t need an actual notebook or a pencil. You can do the same thing on your smart phone, iPad, or other techno-tool. However, I would encourage you to use paper and pen and go old school. Why? Because you are more apt to remember it if you actually write it by hand. Writing notes is less about creating a reference as it is creating a memory. The physical act of writing allows us to remember the content better.

In all the years I carried that small notebook I can’t think of more than a few times I actually went back and looked at it. I didn’t need to. I filled dozens of small flip books full of notes, sketches, outlines, and other tidbits that eventually made their way into stories in one form or another.

So, swing by the Five and Dime and pick up a few dozen notebooks and good pen. There are ideas taking place all around you. Write them down!

From → Writing

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