Finding story ideas can be as easy as searching for a penny on the sidewalk.
Just spend a little time looking and there’s bound to be one, shiny and heads up or dull and dirty, heads down.
Story ideas can come from what you observe in the exterior world, or start internally, building outward.
As I mentioned last week, story ideas can be gleaned from human nature, watching how people behave and interact with one another, and from the natural world, such as weather events or natural disasters.
The human interactions can give an idea for a character, whereas the natural world could provide a setting, invoking the question of how a character would, for example, respond in a flash food or a forest fire.
This week, I’ll focus on finding stories from the inside out.
Go somewhere – a coffee shop, bar, restaurant or mall – and take notes on the furnishings, lighting levels (bright in stores and low in some bars) and atmosphere or mood of the place. How does the setting make you feel? Comfortable or edgy? Overwhelmed or energetic? Think about why and use this as a starting point for character development.
Or write out a negative emotion, transforming hurts, frustrations and fears into creative expression. What did you come up with? Is this the start of a story or notes on a character’s identity?
Here are some other ways to look inside for writing sparks:
- Write about struggles in your life and what you learned from them.
- Write for revenge or to prove someone wrong, not to blaspheme that person on paper, but because writing well is the best way to get back at someone. If you want to write about a hurtful situation caused by another person (let’s call her the B), then change a few details so the B and her friends can’t identify the source of your inspiration.
- Write about an issue you care about through the perspective of a character you develop, hopefully not with your exact traits to avoid turning preachy.
Here are a few more ideas for finding stories:
Look in newspapers and magazines for story sparks.
Eavesdrop on the conversations around you and pick out an interesting line or exchange.
Think of a first line. Or start with a list or an image.
Journal or freewrite.
And there’s doing some another creative exercise, such as drawing or knitting, to get into a creative mood.
Whatever method you pick, realize that writing is about exploration, a treasure hunt that leads you to that brilliant idea if you stick with it.