Apr 30, 2008

Stories are Everywhere

Beginning writers often wonder where to get ideas for stories. The first place most writers turn is to their own life experiences. But remember, real-life experiences should only be idea-generators, not the whole story.

Ideas from Pictures

Pictures can stimulate your imagination, leading to great story ideas. Ask yourself questions when looking at photos. What are the people doing? Feeling? What happened before and after? Are they trying to hide something? Don't overlook group shots; look for people in the background who weren't meant to be in the picture. What is their story?

Ideas from News Events

Newspaper headlines are full of story ideas. Without reading the whole article, what does the headline make you think of? The following are headlines taken from the last few issues of the Daily Herald. See if any of them spark an idea.

-AF man celebrates gift of life
-Hundreds flee wildfire in L.A. foothills
-Pit Bull --Ticking time bomb or trusted friend
-Indian tragedies trouble early Springville colonists
-Return to Vietnam
-No remains found in dig for Parley P. Pratt

You can also get ideas from reading the whole story and asking, what if something were different. What if the fire was arson? What if the robber shot the teller? What if the person in a car accident was your babysitter with your children in the car? What if the terrorist were your son-in-law? In these questions the only real news facts are the fire, the robbery, the car accident, and the terrorist. What you do with a fact, and the story it could possibly turn into, is up to you.

Ideas from Observation

You will know you have finally arrived and become a writer when you see a story in everything around you. A backpack left unattended on a playground could be filled with a myriad assortment of things; an abandoned baby, a million dollars, a ticking time-bomb. A person walking quickly down the street could be fleeing a crime scene. A couple hugging could be saying goodbye or reuniting after a long separation.

Observe the people around you. Listen to their conversations. Characterize them in your head and try to figure out their story. The likelihood is that their real story isn't as spectacular as what you will create.

How do you generate story ideas? I'd love to hear your suggestions.


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