Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Secret Weapons

I have a secret weapon when it comes to writing: my boys.

Since I write for children, my kids are deep wells of quirks and inspiration. When they ask questions such as "How did a butterfly get its name?" I write it down. When my son told me he wanted to be an astronaut and a singer when he grows up, I wrote it down. After a long day at Disneyland, my sister asked my son, "What was your favorite part?" His answer? "The fun inside my head."

Before I took writing seriously, these moments were lodged in my memory, but that's it. Now they're fodder for stories or nonfiction manuscripts. If nothing else, my notes are a sort of journal, recording this stage in their lives -- what my sons are curious about, what worries them, and what makes them laugh. No matter what, that's priceless.

Do you have a secret weapon for your writing? Sweet or quirky children? A funny grandparent? A creepy uncle? Wacky students? Do tell!

38 comments:

  1. That's so interesting, Julie! And that's really great that you write it all down.
    A secret? Hmmm.... I'm not sure if I do. I usually just keep all the summaries of my book stored in a binder and when I'm clear out of ideas I look back at them and then something sparks in my mind. Everyone always asks me where I come up with some of the bizarre fantasy ideas I have. Honestly, I do not really know. Sometimes I guess they just come to me because I'm thinking about it. Does that make sense?

    You've gotten an award at my blog. Please check it out? http://lrenees-fictionalwriter.blogspot.com/2010/08/writers-blog-award.html

    Happy writing,
    Lindsey
    author of the Magicians series

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  2. I always wish I'd written it down. You think you'll never forget, but you do. How sad. I guess it's never too late to start.

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  3. Hey, where did a butterfly get its name?

    I keep a battered notepad with me to scribble ideas and bits of dialogue I hear during the course of the day, too.

    Thanks for the kind words on my blog, Roland

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  4. LReneeS, a binder of ideas is perfect! Keeps those ideas organized for when you really need them. Thank you for the award!

    Lisa, I know. So many things I didn't write down that I wish I had. It's true, though, it's never too late to start.

    Roland, just the term "battered notebook" sounds so writerly...love it!

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  5. I pull from snippets of conversation anywhere. But my children and students have been the most important sources. They help me get into their minds and make my dialogue more authentic.

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  6. Like your sons, my daughter has appeared in most all my non-fiction stories. But for fiction, I have used friends mostly and people from my past.

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  7. Like you, it's my kids. I used to write MG before I realized my voice really belonged in YA and often my work was inspired by them. Now, writing YA solely, I find my ideas come from people-watching a lot. The movies, the sidewalks, the el stop. . . there's hidden glances, knowing looks and secret laughs everywhere and like you - I jot them down:-)

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  8. Julie..like your son , my nieces and nephew appear in most of my writing which is for the Middle Grade age group. Actually, very often my conversations with them trigger many incidents in my books and my writing is filled with my daily interactions with them.

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  9. Theresa, being a teacher, you must have loads of great material to pull from!

    Terri, did your daughter like being featured in nonfiction pieces? My son loved it!

    Lindsay, people watching is fun AND helpful with our work!

    Rachna, listening to my sons talk with their friends is a huge help. Keeps this 40-something current!

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  10. Well, I don't have children, but I have thoughts like that *all* the time. Just the other day I asked my husband what Moths eat. He looked at me blankly. "I have no idea."

    Maybe I'll start writing those down... or drawing them? ;-)

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  11. Now that I wrote that out, I remember, moths eat clothes. (*snicker*) Wonder what they eat in the wild... *runs to Google*

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  12. Jessica...LOL! Your husband probably thought you were crazy! Yes, love those why or how questions!

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  13. Music does it for me - very inspiring :)

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  14. Nicole, I envy those who can write while listening to music. I need silence! The words in my brain can't compete with music. Short attention span perhaps?

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  15. Julie, I love that you've opened up this discussion. It's wonderful that your boys inspire you so much. As a teacher... well, I'm sure you know where I'm headed ;) Plenty of inspiration on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis! Thanks, Julie!

    Marissa

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  16. Every day life is a source of constant inspiration.

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  17. Marissa, teachers have huge inspiration sitting in front of them every day!

    Donna, so true. Now that I'm aware, it's all around me.

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  18. My secret weapon is my daughters who like to critique my online forays.

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  19. Oh me too. My kids might be older, but they are nuggets of gold, especially their sense of humor. It's so...me, and so it fits perfectly with my writing voice. I love that my kids and I find the same things hillarious and we have the same twisted view!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  20. Paul, critical daughters...hmmm, I know some of those myself! That's awesome.

    Angela, I can imagine that your kids play a huge role with your writing. Especially since you share the same sense of humor!

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  21. I think kids give us great material - families too. I've never thought to keep a notebook of it all but it's a great idea :)

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  22. For me it's all about the kids as well. I have my 2, their friends, and yes those wacky students. People have so many unique perspectives! Lots of fun to observe :)

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  23. Aw, your boys look like they are ready to have some fun.

    I think I get a lot of my ideas from the pure craziness that always seems to happen around me. Ha.

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  24. I get my inspiration from lots of places. My mind seems locked in 'what if' mode most of the time. But I love listening to my kids talk to their friends. They are so funny! I ought to bug the house so I don't miss a word!

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  25. This secret weapon that you have in so valuable to writing! I wish I had kids that I could get fodder from. Other than my own imagination, I have to rely on my old teen journals... because the closest thing I have to kids (my dogs), don't talk - lol.

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  26. So so so true.
    And thats' what I LOVE about this whole blogging business- I can put down those things which I am sure I will NEVER forget, but invariably do.

    And I think my kids knows where butterflies get their name- I overheard them discussing it once, so all I need to do is to ask them and let you know.

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  27. That's what I love about kids...their curiosity and take on the world is always refreshing & story worthy.You are smart to write them down.

    And I have to say that since I've been working at a Mental Health Crisis Unit, I have met a ton of quirky eccentric individuals that have this tangle of experiences and unique outlooks...truth IS stranger than fiction :)

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  28. For me, I have to say I often use what I hear from everyday conversations, whether I'm standing in line at the bank, store or wherever. As I live in Ireland, I can always be certain that I'll hear something witty or interesting to include in a story:)

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  29. Definitely. My kids and carpooling!

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  30. I love that your son has fun inside his head! Sounds like your secret weapons very creative.

    I don't really have a secret weapon. Maybe I should find one...

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  31. What a great source your boys are! I find my girls are helpful, and so is my mom-in-law. One time she said, "What are all those spots on your face? They haven't been there before have they?" Then she promptly got out the Aloe Vera plant.
    I've started my 100 followers contest. Come say hi and enter. :)

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  32. Your boys sound adorable. My secret weapon is my husband. He constantly says hilarious and writing-worthy things, and when I hash out details of my books with him, he always points out flaws and gives great ideas of how to make them better.

    I jumped over from Twitter, and I love your blog!

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  33. "The fun inside my head" is priceless. Out of the mouths of babes. I wish I had written down things my kids said when they were younger. They're teenagers now and it isn't quite so printable!

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  34. The fun inside my head is pretty great. I think it's Tina Fey who always credits her daughter with coming up with a lot of the material she uses. Maybe I need to have kids.

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  35. What a great idea! I need to remember this when I have children, it allows you to get inside their minds and spark your own imagination! What's not to love.

    Honestly I watch obscene amounts of television, people watching is a must and standing outside as the traffic passes watching the stars sparkle always inspires me!

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  36. "The Part In My Head" - Damn, that's some good stuff right there!

    If you ever come up with a rockstar cosmonaut, I'll be first in line at the signing!

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  37. That's a great idea! My garden definitely inspires me.

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