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Getting Good Story Ideas
- Written by Derry Sampey
Try these tricks to start collecting ideas for your novel.
Don't you just love it when non-writers assume that all a writer needs to do is sit around and wait to be struck by inspiration, then pound out a best-seller and become fabulously wealthy overnight? Yeah, me too!
If sitting around doesn't work for you, either, there are plenty of other ways to accumulate story ideas. And once you have good ideas, it doesn't take a lot of effort to turn them into good stories. The process may not be quite as effortless as waiting for inspiration to strike, but if you follow these easy steps that have worked well for countless other writers, you will soon find yourself on the creative path to success!
The first thing you must do is be prepared to gather information that will stimulate the development of good story ideas. To accomplish this, you need to carry a pen and notepad or a voice recorder of some kind. If you don't log information about people and events right away, you might forget important details about them by the time you are able to get to your keyboard.
The poet William Wordsworth once said that successful writing comes from emotion recollected in tranquility, which obviously worked well for him. Did he take notes? Who knows? But Wordsworth did not have a full-time job, nor did he keep up the yard, shop for groceries or put up with the 1,001 other distractions most of us deal with on a daily basis. So be prepared to record snippets of conversations and descriptions of interesting sights and sounds, as well as all of the ideas and emotions they arouse in you.
Where do you start?
That's easy. Study the people around you, in stores, at meetings, on planes. Who are they? What kind of lives do they lead? What caught your attention about certain ones? Politely eavesdrop on other diners in restaurants or on people waiting in lines with you. You will overhear the most amazing, not to mention extremely useful, story ideas!
Jog your memory by reading your old diaries or journals. If you don't have any, then read other people's published diaries and journals. Let your mind turn the words into videos that kindle ideas and emotions leading to perfect story-starters. Listen to music that moves you. From classical concertos to golden oldies, music is the background of our lives, so mine it for old memories or new ideas. Lie in the grass and stare at the clouds. Where have they been? Where are they going? Where would you like to go, and why?
Study both human interest and hard news stories in periodicals and on the Internet. Let an odd twist or turn you read or hear about kick-start your imagination. Or borrow fascinating fragments from other people's lives and mix and match them for your own use. Browse through your high school yearbooks. What do you think happened to some of the people pictured in them? (Even better, ask yourself what you hope happened!)
After you have gathered some good story ideas, choose several that appear ripe for development. Next, analyze them to decide about the fiction genres into which they fit. Mystery? Romance? Comedy? When you have made your decisions, write several paragraphs roughing out a plot for each one.
Derry Sampey is the senior editor for CertaPublishing.com