How to Find Story Ideas
When people have finished reading a good story, they often wonder where on earth the author got all their ideas from. There is, after all, so much to think about before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard); as every minor detail has to be thought out very carefully if the story is to be successful. So, what is the secret to finding ideas for stories? Do all authors use the same methods? Unfortunately, there is no secret plan of action or a place that writers can visit to purchase instant story ideas. There are, however, many different ways of unlocking creativity that will enable you to make up exciting stories that will be a pleasure to read…
1. Be observant – story ideas are all around you, and all you need to do is look and listen. Keep your eyes open for unusual and entertaining things, such as the recovery vehicle that has broken down or the police car that has managed to reverse into a lamp post – incidents like these can trigger off all sorts of story ideas. It may sound nosey, but listening into other people’s conversations whilst you’re out and about can provide you with a wide variety of dialogue to use in your stories.
2. Be prepared – always carry a notebook and pen, or a voice recorder, around with you wherever you go. You might think that you’ll remember everything you see and hear when you get back home and position yourself in front of the computer, but it is surprising how quickly these precious moments get forgotten and it would be such a pity to waste them.
3. Papers and pictures – newspaper articles can give you all kinds of inspiration for your stories. Read a selection of newspapers regularly and cut out anything that catches your eye. You can then file these snippets of information away for future reference. The childhood sweethearts who are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, for example, could easily be turned into a story. What if their lives had been different and they had been separated during the war, through no fault of their own, and then lost touch. They could have married different people, but then a chance meeting years later could bring them back together. A picture is certainly worth a thousand words, and old black and white photographs are particularly good for triggering off all kinds of thoughts and feelings that could be used in a story.
4. A modern slant – fairytales and biblical stories can easily be given a modern slant and people have been using them as a source of inspiration for many years. Jeffrey Archer, for example, had huge success with his book ‘Kane and Abel’ which is a play on the Biblical brothers, Cain and Abel.
5. Think of a sentence – this may sound a little silly, but simply thinking of a sentence and then carrying on from it can produce a very respectable story. You may not know where the story is going in the beginning, but if you just keep on writing you’ll definitely get there in the end.
6. Start with a title – try to think of a good title before you start writing your story, rather than writing your story and then trying to think of an appropriate title afterwards. You may find that this system works better for you.
7. Readers’ letters – make a habit of reading the letters pages in magazines, especially the women’s magazines. These short pieces are like miniature stories that could keep you busy for ages. The woman who complains that her husband spends more time on his allotment than he does with her, for example, could perhaps decide to pop down there one day and surprise him. When she arrives, she could find the allotment in desperate need of attention and her husband nowhere to be seen!
8. Poems and songs – poems and songs tell all sorts of stories and could easily be used in your writing. Listen carefully to the words next time you are listening to music, and read a variety of poetry by different authors. You will be surprised where your imagination leads you.
9. Writing contests – competitions are great for unlocking creativity, especially as some of them have themes. Themes are especially good for getting your imagination going, and it can be a real challenge to think outside the box and come up with a real winner!
10. Keep a diary – putting down all your thoughts and feelings every day in a diary can help to inspire you when you are stuck for ideas. Your daily events may not always seem very interesting when you write them down, but in the weeks and months that follow they will certainly tell a different story.
Every writer will find that one system works better for them than another, so it is advisable to try out as many different ideas as you can at first to see which ones work best for you. Whilst trying out different ideas, you may even discover a few new ones of your own that you could share with others!
This content was provided by one of our users, Jane Grimshaw