5 Ways to Discover Story Ideas.

Many people want to be a writer. They want to create the perfect story about___________? And that blank is about as far as the majority gets with their dream. The dream will stay with them for years or even decades of their lives. They might have a vague image of something in their mind, but it refuses to become a clearly formed image.

I’ve been like that with some of my ideas. I’ll sit for hours on adjectives swirling around in my brain but not sure what they’re mean. But, eventually, I growl into the 02:00 AM air and break out a pen and pad of paper or go full-on rage mode and boot up the laptop. That’s when the business of story ideas begins.

5 WAYS TO DISCOVER STORY IDAS IMAGE, BACK TEXT ON WHITE BACKGROUND


 

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”Orson Scott, Author of the Ender’s Game series.

Orson Scott quote, white letters, on silhouette of legs walking on coblble stone street.

Scott is right, very right. You hear many people say, “A story torn from today’s headlines.” The reason for that is because the book or short story, headline the author/writer saw on the news, in the newspaper, or even a social media snippet.

TORN FROM THE HEADLINES

These headlines aren’t just for reality-based genres but can be used for science fiction and fantasy, and magical realism. Yes, that last one is somewhat reality-based, but it still can have plenty of fantasy elements.

I took a glance at today’s headlines, and one is about the L.A. Dodgers going for their 7th World Series title while the Tampa Bay Rays are going for their first.
The first idea to come to mind is a fantasy in which to win their freedom, the Rays of Taba must defeat the brutal forces of the Angels of DoLos.  The Rays know this is their last chance. The battle is set in a series of ever-increasing deadly matches of skill, requiring the combatants to overcome the fear of the situation places them in. The protagonist/hero/main character can be any gender or none at all, any skin tone, any traits at all that appeals to you. The Rays don’t need to win in the story but can lose by deceit, and then they begin to truly fight. They do so guerilla-style, hit and run, a war from the shadows.

Here’s another fantasy idea using the same headline and the same names, with a twist. Prince Taba must find the Ring of Wisdom before Lord Ángeles of the Kingdom of DoLos or Ángeles will possess all Seven Rings of The Ancients and have the power to destroy Taba’s people. If Taba can find it first, the wisdom he receives will save his people and overcome the DoLos. The 7th Ring! In the Bible, the number 7 is the number of physical and spiritual perfection. In numerology, it means both deep and wise. Both references have even more meanings, but I think you get where this is going. Here, I turned Taba into a person. You could also turn this into an Indiana Jones-type action-adventure as well, think Temple of Doom. Or you could say Taba must reach the 7th Circle, the Circle of (Fill in the Blank), to defeat Lord Ángeles of the Kingdom of DoLos.

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays with Morrie.

Mitch Albom quote on silhouettes of mothers with children scenarios.

This one nails the idea behind finding a story. What Albom says is true. You can take a moment in your life and turn it into something else.

PERSONAL LIFE MOMENTS

For instance, I had a few seconds when I was in the 6th grade that could’ve changed my entire school experience. I can still feel that moment today. I’ve relived that moment but changed it in so many ways. Each change leads me down a new path in life. I usually end up being a common sense, logical genius, solving the environmental, global warming, green energy, unemployment, poverty, and hunger problems of the world. And the solution is easy. After all, I’ve done it several times.

I’ve rescued famous people. Won elections. Prevented disasters. Conquered Mars. Colonized planets in other solar systems. And I’ve done it all by changing one point or other in my life.

INSPIRED BY OTHER WORKS

Another way to find an idea is to read a book, watch a movie or TV show, or listen to a song. I’ve found ideas in each of those. No, I don’t copy what I’m enjoying. What I do is, take a line, or an image or some random interpretation of a moment or an emotion, and turn that into a story idea. I currently have 74 separate series of ideas. That’s not 74 books, that’s 74 series. And some of those series I already have three to twelve books story structured.

I write down everything I come up with, along with a description of the idea, what inspired it and anything else I can come up with. If it’s a song, what line of the song and what was I thinking or feeling that inspired the idea. Just a title doesn’t always work. Get all the details you can, or at least enough to head you in the right direction when and if you ever come back to it. If you are serious about becoming an author, carry something on you that you can get those ideas in a form for later. A little notebook, your phone to either make a note or record a message, a tablet.

If you don’t you may lose the most enjoyable writing experience of your life. Some people say, if you can’t remember the idea until later, then it wasn’t good enough, to begin with. Not true. At least not always. I’ve seen so many of my ideas show up on both the big screen and small screen. Some I’ve written down, and some that come back to me as I’m watching or sometimes even reading my thought I had twenty years ago.

“Don’t stop because you’ve hit a block. Finish the page, even if you write nothing but your own name. The block will break if you don’t give in to it. Remember, writing is a physical habit as well as whatever you want to think it is—calling, avocation, talent, genius, art.”Isabelle Holland, author of The Man Without a Face.

Isabelle Holland quote in simple white text on black band and marble styled background.

GET IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND INTO WORDS

But what if you’re still wanting to grab onto that vague image you have?

  1. Write down those adjectives you have, no matter how random or unrelated you think they may be.
  2. Get in front of the laptop, close your eyes, and begin typing what you can make out of that image. It may not make any sense. That’s perfectly fine. First moments of ideas seldom do.
  3. Don’t backspace. You can spellcheck later. That’s what Grammarly or whatever you like to use, is for.
  4. As you type, there is a good chance other random thoughts will come to mind, possibly trying to distract you, or so you think. Type them. Get them out of your head so you can either use them later or get them out of the way of where you’re headed.

Once you’ve done what you can. You can do one of two things:

  1. Read what you’ve come up with and see if it takes you somewhere
  2. Walk away for a few days and give your brain and the information time to rest/marinate.
    • You have a creative whirlwind and ideas fly from through your fingers and into words you’ve been begging for.
    • You get frustrated because none of it makes sense and you are no closer to your goal than before you started….or so you think at the time.\

Two things could happen with either choice, in other words, pros and cons:

  1. READING IT NOW:
    • You have a creative whirlwind and ideas fly from through your fingers and into words you’ve been begging for.
    • Or you get frustrated because none of it makes sense and you are no closer to your goal than before you started….or so you think at the time.\
  2. WAITING A FEW DAYS;
    • You return with a fresh uncluttered mind. Perhaps random ideas have popped into your head while doing other tasks
    • Or you see what the words and thoughts, and get frustrated. And for the same reason as the READING IT NOW frustration. You just don’t see it yet.

TAKING WHAT YOU HAVE AND RUNNING WITH IT

But what you can do once you have the results of those initial word writing storms is expand on the words, the adjectives. You know you want a certain kind of story, you just don’t know what the story is. Now you begin to add.

  • Is there a positive protagonist? If so, what are the characteristics you would like the character to have? These can be both external and internal characteristics.
  • Do you want the character to have flaws? If so, what kind do you feel drawn to at that moment?
  • Do you want them to be an anti-hero?
  • Do you have thoughts of an antagonist? Now, this is a bit tricky. An antagonist can take on the guise of a person, a creature, a spirit, a political system, a society, a nation, a world, a universe, and so many other things. Write down the ones you like.
  • Do you see colors? Sounds odd, but colors can lead you places. It could be hair, eyes, the sky, sea, land, or an object.
  • Do you get a feeling there are certain types of people, like an alien race, or elves or sidekicks, anything?

Just because you write it down the initial ideas or the expanded ones, does not mean you must use them. It’s just word playing and seeing if something jumps or sticks.

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” — Neil Gaiman, author of many things.

Neil Gaiman quote in white text on background of people typing and a retro comic strip character.

AND THE BONUS: WRITING PROMPTS

This is such an obvious one, I almost didn’t include it. You can throw a rock at a list of blogs and probably hit one that has writing prompts. And I don’t just mean for you to use flash fiction or prose writing prompts. Poetry prompts or photography prompts will work just as well.  Here’s a post on Reedsy.com’s blog, Best Fantasy Writing Prompts, which has 107 for you to choose from. But don’t forget there’s a list of blogs and prompts they offer here on this site, Challenges/Prompts From the Blogosphere.

Of course. there are other ways to come up with ideas, but these are a few you can start with.


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© 2020 Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.

7 thoughts on “5 Ways to Discover Story Ideas.

  1. You give a lot of ideas to run with. I had to look up anti-hero. I can’t believe I haven’t paid attention to that word before. Perhaps I’ve just forgotten it. Thanks for the thoughts and for the links for other prompts.

    Liked by 1 person

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