Sunday, December 26, 2010

Unique Places to Find Story Ideas

Article by Michelle Giles

Writers always say they get their ideas from "everywhere." You may ask, what exactly is everywhere?

Stories can be created from a simple thought, a word, a headline; even a line from a song can inspire your creativity and motivate you to write. The little things from life's daily events can also provide dozens of ideas. Anything you do or anywhere you go could supply fodder for your next story. You simply need to keep your mind open.

If you're having trouble coming up with that perfect story idea, here's a list of unusual places that can spark your imagination:

1. Market research. Read through market listings and guidelines, even in areas you don't normally write. Make note of what the editors are looking for. Many times an editor's request will set off a new idea for a story or article. Even if an editor is looking for a nonfiction article about cloning, that may spark an idea for a science fiction story.

2. Greeting cards. People buy greeting cards as a way of expressing their feelings. Browse through your local card store and seek out the section that best matches your writing. For example, if you're blocked on a romance idea, read through the relationship section. If you need some humor to get you going, check out the funny cards. Then use a card's theme as your starting point.

3. Yellow pages. Believe it or not, the telephone book is full of creativity. Often, a catchy name for a company or service can stimulate ideas for a title or story. The telephone book is also a great resource for character names.

4. Newspaper articles. Read through your local weekly papers, as well as the freebies, and think of ways to develop the news into your writing. Real life stories are also good starting points for fiction. They show the drama, motivation and feelings of the characters of life. Court trials also offer details on characterization. In addition, headlines, especially those of the tabloids, make great titles.

5. Comedy sketch shows. Watch shows like Saturday Night Live and Tracey Takes On... They are prime examples of characterization. Study the characters and note which attributes make them humorous and memorable to you, as well as what makes them popular. This will help you create likeable characters your readers will remember.

6. Photographs. A photo of a place can stimulate an idea for a setting, while a photo of a person can spark an idea for a character. If a picture moves you, but you can't immediately think of a story idea, file it away. You never know when it may come in handy. You can also jump start the creative process by finding an intriguing photo and creating a story about it.

7. Commercials. These mini-stories often hint at what's hot with consumers. Many commercials even present a short story with a punch-line or twist ending in just a minute. Try using the same format to create your own short piece. This can be very effective in contest writing, where judges are looking for writers to present information in a unique way.

8. Life events. Take an incident in your daily life and bring it to an extreme. For example, suppose you go to the doctor for a routine checkup and find you're healthy. Why not go home and write a story about a doctor telling your character she will die?

9. Contests. Each contest forces you to write about a specific subject or theme by a certain deadline. This gets your mind going in several directions for different types of writing, in addition to the contest entry. And even if you don't win, you have a manuscript you can sell elsewhere.

10. Stupid criminal books. These books list all the dumb mistakes average criminals make. Although criminals in fiction must be clever and smart, these books will teach you a lot about human nature. They can also spark crime and humor story ideas.

11. Senior citizens. Our elders have fantastic stories and touching memories. Talk to your grandmother, great-grandfather, parents, an uncle, a friend. The possibilities of creating powerful stories from their memories are endless. Their tales could set off an historical novel, a nonfiction book, even a murder mystery.

12. People in a crowd. Pick out a person, imagine yourself in his shoes and start from there.

Remember, it doesn't matter how you find your story idea, only that you find it. The best way is to pay attention -- all the time and everywhere. Look at your surroundings, listen to the nearby voices, smell, touch, and taste. Never limit yourself. Then, when someone asks you where you get your story ideas, you'll be able to say "everywhere."

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