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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Beyond the Basics: Ideas, Observation, and Research
by Linda S. Dupie

The tools of a writer go beyond pen and paper or your word processor. Writers use non-tangible tools like observation and ideas. You need to be vigilant of your surroundings, recognize and capitalize on ideas and have the ability to conduct research.

The great part of writing is the continual process of learning. If you aren't great at research, you can learn how to do it effectively. Do you have a tough time coming up with the next article or story idea? Not to worry you can learn how to spy a topic.

A dreaded word for most people, but to a writer it means uncovering new facts or rediscovering the past. What if you're not great at researching information for an article? Practice, visit your library, and get to know the librarians, make them your best friend. Ask for tips on making research less painful. Do research on how to research. There are many books on the subject of research; they're even divided into categories according to the genre, or topic. Research is a necessity for the well-rounded article or story, and is an excellent tool for sparking ideas.

Observation in writing is key. People tend to observe their surroundings naturally, but as writers, we need to take it a step further. Writers need to remember taste, smell, touch, sight, and sounds.

 Most people remember these things from conditioning. As writers we need to use our words effectively to show the surroundings and transport the reader to that time or place. Carrying a pocket-size notebook is helpful, write down essential detail that helps you remember the smell of the air, or how the mist hung over the dilapidated house and left you with an eerie feeling.

When you go places be aware of what's around you, even a place you've been a hundred times. You never know what might spark your writing. When you take your daily walk, who's out when you are? Take time to notice them, do they have a skip in their walk or swing their arms wildly? What facial expressions do you notice, these are characteristics you can apply to your fiction writing. These observations apply to article writing too. Take the walker who swings their arms wildly, is this good form for a walker, maybe an article on correct form. Facial expressions might lead to an article on how exercising relieves stress or the benefits of exercising and finding the best plan for you.

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas
Look around; there are thousands of ideas right in front of you at any given time. Someone, somewhere has covered most topics or ideas; but this shouldn't deter you, because your slant on the idea is what makes the article or story stand apart from others.

Your weekly trips to the grocery store can lead to character traits for characters in your book, if you watch the people around you. Finding your next article idea is as easy as noticing there are three new register attendants in the check stands. Your topic could cover the turnover rate of employees in chain supermarkets.

Look in your own back yard, have you noticed an increase or decrease in the number of bugs? Find out why. Make a list of topics you consider yourself an expert on, your children for instance. Have they recently had a rash you never knew existed until that moment? If you were unaware, other parents might be as well. Look at your pets, have you noticed an increase in fleas or ticks, an article on the cause of this is a timely piece for your local paper.

By observing the mundane or out of the ordinary you could find your next story or article idea. Open your eyes and mind because what we do for a living revolves in a giant circle. We observe, find ideas, and those ideas progress to research. The research brings us back to observation and more ideas.

List of Topics/Ideas

1. Pets

2. Hobbies

3. Children

4. Children's health

5. Children's play

6. Children and friends (can include the different ages and stages)

7. Your home

8. Remodeling/redecorating

9. Home-Zoning permits

10. Gardening-Can include lawn care or other seasonal information.

11. Local community-YMCA, local volunteers groups/fundraising

12. Grocery stores--Are they carrying fresh fruit and vegetables from out of state or country. Is customer service better or worse?

13. Are new roads planned for your area--the pro's and con's

14. Spot trends/fads before they happen

15. Antiques/collecting-What's hot, what's not

16. Art Galleries-Is there a new artist spotlighted, what are the current trends in buying art?

17. Exercise-Balanced exercise program for a beginner, what to do before a beginner starts

18. Help wanted ads-Search them for current trends in employment locally. Go online and search them nationally.

19. Fertility-Advances in treatment, side affects

20. People's physical appearance-Are long fingers a requirement for a pianist. Does height equal a basketball player?

21. Schools construction/remodeling-How do those bonds we vote for help. Does carrying that debt locally help or hurt your community 20 or 30 years down the road.

22. Your retired parents--Their quality of life compared to your expected quality of life when you retire.

23. National Debt-how it affects you locally.

24. Interest Rates--How do they affect your quality of life before and after retirement?

25. TV-The pros and cons, better or worse than 10 or 20 years ago, reality shows, what's their purpose.

Linda is a wife, mother, writer and the editor of a web site and print magazine for "The Writing Family" called Rainy Day Corner. (http://rainydaycorner.com/). She writes on a variety of subjects including parenting issues. Homepage http://www.lindasdupie.com









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