Ideas are like cats. 

If you go after one, it’s likely to run away and hide, showing only a piece of tail that will be whisked away the moment you reach for it. If you try to call it, it will ignore you. But, sometimes, if you sit quietly, one will walk right up to you to plop onto your keyboard as you try to work. . 

Like cats, ideas can’t be forced. They can, however, be lured into coming over to be petted. 

Ideas like questions. They like curiosity. 

If you’re feeling stuck in a story, one of the very best things you can do is to start asking questions. 

  • What’s hiding in this landscape?
  • Who else lives nearby?
  • Why is this person the way he is?
  • What is she hiding?
  • Who holds the power in this family?
  • Why?
  • How?
  • When?
  • Why now?

Often, writers get stymied by the desire to pile up word count or finish a draft. But, sometimes, the most important writing you can do is writing that never appears in your manuscript, or else is only alluded to. How did these two characters become friends? Why are they enemies? What is their most important shared memory? 

If you’re feeling stuck in your story, try sitting back and reassessing what you have with a lens of curiosity. Every character and setting, no matter how minor, holds questions that can bring ideas straight to your keyboard.