Where Do Writers Get Ideas?
by Jackie Houchin
In a recent post on Marilyn Meredith’s blog titled “Field Trips for Writers,” I wrote about exciting trips we “WinRs” have taken and how they tickled (or tricked) our muses into action. I also suggested a bunch more for her readers. Check them out; you may glean a story idea too. (http://bit.ly/1PIYv3o).
Any little sight, sound, or experience can generate ideas for your writing. A few crows pestering my Maine Coon cat in our back yard inspired me to write “The Crows Know” about a planned murder that went awry.
The glassy-smooth feel on my fingertips as I ran them down the side of a newly polished sports car inspired a story about a murderous duo in “Sweet Ride.”
A longing for a certain left-over item in my fridge after a harried day of shopping the malls, led to my dark flash fiction story “The Perilous Pizza.”
A newspaper story about a 1932 dam about to be renovated, inspired fellow WinR writer, Gayle Bartos-Pool, to write “Damning Evidence,” the third in her Gin Caulfield mysteries.
Then there’s that newspaper clipping about the body of an elderly family member found wedged behind an upright piano months after she went missing. It intrigues me. How did she get there? Was there no noise of a struggle? No odor? It’s mind boggling and “ripe” for a story. Go ahead, be my guest!
Every wonder where the writer came up with a man-eating plant who falls in love with him after reaching gigantic proportions (Little Shop of Horrors), or an astronaut who grows potatoes in outer space (The Martian), or a love story with a woman who lived 50 or 100 years before him (Somewhere in Time/Time after Time), or who lived before AND after him (The Time-Traveler’s Wife).
Something sparked those ideas; I wonder what it was…? (Take a second just now to ponder them. Really. Do it!)
Here are a few places you can look to get your “juices” flowing:
1. Pick up a newspaper (any section) and read a tiny story.
2. Glance in the gutter of a busy street (A kid found $600 in a paper bag doing that!).
3. Look at signs and posters in the windows of stores or apartments or the post office.
4. Look at want-ads or items for sale, or personal notices.
5. Peer over your neighbor’s fence.
6. Peruse the items in your fridge… your car’s trunk…or your jewelry box.
7. Thumb through an old family album with murder, vice, or a caper in mind.
8. Thumb through an old family album with…a memoir in mind.
9. Join (or maybe just watch) a protest march.
10. Choose a parable and twist it or “pastiche” it.
11. Search out writers’ prompts from hundreds of websites.
12. Delve into a thesaurus or encyclopedia (use the old “close-your-eyes, open-the-page, and point-to-a-word” technique).
13. Google a random date.
14. Google a prescription medicine that you take.
15. Google your grandmother’s maiden name.
15. Drip food coloring into a saucer of milk, then add a touch of dish soap…and be amazed. What comes to mind first?
There are ideas all around us and you can turn them into stories with a little diabolical imagination!
All it takes is… a character or two, a problem or three, several adversaries or a block wall that can’t be scaled, a terrifying time table, a heart-stopping climax, and a shocking, satisfying, humorous, or thought-provoking conclusion. Voila! You’ve got a story. (Of course it needs massaged, edited, critiqued, and rewritten! But we’re talking ideas here.)
CHALLENGE: Pick one suggestion from anywhere in this post. Let your imagination roam and see if you can come up with a story idea – at least the kernel of one – then throw it into a hot popper and see what happens!
And please let me know if you find one! (A story idea, that is!)