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Ideas, Observation, and Research

by Linda S. Dupie

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


A dreaded word for most people, but to a writer it means uncovering new facts or rediscovering the past. 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 friends. 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.


People tend to observe their surroundings naturally, but as writers we need to take it a step further. Writers need to notice and remember taste, smell, touch, sight, and sound. And writers need to use words effectively to transport the reader to a specific time or place. Carrying a pocket-size notebook is helpful. Write down essential details that help you remember the smell of the air, or how the mist hung over the dilapidated house and left you with an eerie feeling. Be aware of what’s around you, even in 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 in your fiction writing. But these observations can apply to article writing too. Take the walker who swings his arms wildly-is this good form for a walker? Maybe you can write an article on correct walking form. Noticing facial expressions might lead to an article on how exercising relieves stress.

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas

Look around; at any given time there are thousands of ideas right in front of you. Someone, somewhere has probably covered most topics or ideas. But this shouldn’t deter you, because your slant on the idea is what makes your article or story stand apart from others. Your weekly trip to the grocery store can lead to traits for characters in your book, if you watch the people around you. Noticing there are three new register attendants could lead to an article about 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? 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 could be a timely piece for your local paper.

Open your eyes and mind to the on going cycle of ideas. Observation generates ideas; those ideas lead to research; the research brings us back to observation and more ideas.

Here’s a list of possible Topics/Ideas from the world around you

  • Pets
  • Hobbies
  • Children’s health
  • Children’s Play
  • Children and friends (can include different ages and stages)
  • Home remodelling/redecorating
  • Home-zoning permits
  • Gardening-Can include lawn care or other seasonal information
  • Local community-YMCA, local volunteer groups/fundraising
  • New local road development- the pros and cons
  • Trends/fads
  • Antiques/collecting-What’s hot, what’s not
  • Art Galleries-Is there a new artist spotlighted, what are the current trends in buying art?
  • Exercise
  • Help wanted ads-Search them for current trends in employment locally. Go online and search them nationally.
  • Fertility-Advances in treatment, side affects
  • School construction/remodelling
  • Your retired parents-Their quality of life compared to your expected quality of life when you retire.
  • National Debt-how it affects you locally.
  • Interest Rates-How do they affect your quality of life before and after retirement.
  • TV-The pros and cons, better or worse than 10 or 20 years ago, reality shows, what’s their purpose.

Visit Linda’s website:

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