Through research you can find topics, subjects and ‘seeds’ for stories. Pick five different topics that interest you, and research them on the Internet, or through your local library. These topics can be virtually anything, as long as they interest you, and information is available. Write brief “summaries” of specific pieces of information that you come across—seeds that could become the basis for future stories. After the summary, list things you’ve learned or thoughts that could form the basis of future stories.
Through my research, I discovered old-fashioned practices for abortions and birth control and other home remedies during and after slavery. The deeper level of meaning was that life was almost so unbearable for Black women at that point in history that women would rather abort using primitive methods and risk her life than bring another child into the world. I used them in The Ebony Tree. In my novel, No Pockets in a Shroud, the blacksmith who was not branded because of his ability to work with horses, later exemplified a black man whose soul could not be branded, chained, or enslaved.
Topics I am currently researching: The North Carolina Sea Islands where the culture is similar to after slavery. The slave castles on the West Coast of Africa, and children who are reared in foster care, and its after effects. Sometimes you can combine different story ideas for an interesting story.
Where Can You Begin?
Know your idea. Start with a “What if” premise. For instance, “What if there was a secret conspiracy to put African Americans in concentration camps?” (Author, John A. Williams, The Man Who Cried I am.)
You might bring a moment in history alive through weaving fact, poetic license and fancy.
Use old newspapers to find out people viewed the world in a different era. You can find these on microfiche at the library.
Look for subjects of your interest such as animals such as ferrets, computer dating, the criminal justice system, serial killers, (ie. If you’re a mystery writer.)
Go on field trips in your local area to add local color to your book.
Go to travel agencies to get information for different locales your book if you can’t visit a location.
Or you can use mind mapping to use a non-linear approach to outlining your book’s significant details.
For mind mapping for subject ideas, you can find software at www.mindjet.com.
Copyright 2006 Black Butterfly Press