July 26, 2011

Good Story Ideas: Where do they come from?

Helpful writing tips and links have been sparse lately, and I apologize for that. I'm trying to redirect this blog so it has a piece of me in it. I want this blog to be helpful for writers, but I also want it to be MY blog. I'm still trying to find that balance. (Any feedback is appreciated.)

So, getting back that helpful stuff, I thought I'd blog about getting good story ideas.

I haven't been published yet, but I've already been asked The #1 Question Writers Get: "Where do you get your ideas?"

Um... I don't know. They just come to me.

Okay, okay. I've given it some thought. The first decent answer I came up with was: my story ideas come to me just like any idea comes to any person.

Inventors come up with incredible gadgets. Usually, when they answer The Idea Question, they talk about a problem they were having. Then, they'll say,  "So I invented the doohicky-o-matic!"

So... you got your idea from a problem? Didn't the idea come AFTER you had the problem?

Seriously, I think that's how our brains work. We see a problem, and we try to come up with a solution. Some of us are better at it than others. (But is it possible that it just takes practice?)

When I want a story idea, I have to define my problem, with specifics. And no, the problem isn't just 'I need a story idea'. My problem is: I need a character that lacks something, in an interesting setting, with the potential for a lot of problems to happen around him/her while he/she struggles with her own problems. And it needs to be entertaining.

But how can your brain work with garbage like that?

Be more specific!

I want a 70,000-word YA novel with a spunky female protagonist who doesn't know what's good for her, who finds herself in a situation with a fantasy element in it.

Usually, the more specific I am, the faster the ideas come to me. I analyze each idea until I find one I'm excited to work on. (Because, let's be honest, sometimes my ideas aren't all that good.)

Of course, there are other ways I get ideas. I got my idea for Ivy Thorn because friends challenged me to approach writing from a different angle. I wasn't looking for a story idea then.

And I got my idea for my zombie book from the voices in my head a dream I had while I was awake. I wasn't looking for a story idea then, either.

So my Top 4 pieces of advice for coming up with good story ideas are:
1) Be specific with what you want
2) Read a lot
3) Try new things with your writing
4) When an idea does come, pick it apart to see if it has "great idea" potential. If it doesn't, keep trying.

More on story ideas to come...

1 comment:

Alex said...

I come up with story ideas in two ways, usually.

1. I read something (like a short story or a whole novel) and one thing really annoys me to the point that I believe I must re-write and fix this to be better. Doing this, I risk plagiarism, I know, but the result tends to be far from the original. Also, news inspires me when I read or hear oddball stories.

2. I have an ongoing story idea (like 5 year ongoing) that I'll never write. Yet, I still imagine scenes and characters and problems and sometimes they all come together in one large idea to be added to my list.

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