Sunday, July 20, 2014

How To Come Up With Story Ideas

First draft is done - Yeah! But now what? The story has to rest, like a beer has to ferment. Write some short stories? Probably, but most of the times they don't keep my mind enough occupied to forget about the story I just finished.

Here's what I do: I start a new story. I flip through my list of story idea and pick the one that appeals me most, and if there is none, I come up with a new idea. But how to come up with new ideas out of the blue? There are certain techniques that give creativity a jump start. 

Read Newspapers
Truman Capote found the story for "In Cold Blood" by reading the newspaper. 
The trick is to read it with an eye for conflict. For example could a headline about a conflict between two foreign countries lead to a story. For two coworkers in an American company originating from these countries this conflict suddenly wouldn't be far away anymore. Even though they got along very well earlier, they even might have been friends, they now have to deal with old prejudices and taking sides.
But it's not always about big things, more often it is about the small things that can cause a large conflict for somebody. Just think of what matters to you or to somebody else.

This technique probably doesn't give you a story idea right away, but it turns on the creativity in the brain. It is basically very simple how it works: Take a random person and list three things this person does. A pilot flights a plane, gets to see a lot of different places and his highest concern is the safety of the passengers. Now turn each one of those into the opposite and see which could be the best story. A pilot who doesn't fly a plane? Possible - he could be suspended because of drinking or he could be have developed a phobia. A pilot who doesn't see different places. Again possible, but probably not very exciting. Finally, a pilot whose highest concern is not the passengers safety. Looking at these options, the first one is probably more about inner conflict, where the last one could be good basis for a thriller.

Steal a Good Idea
Have you ever read a book, where a certain part got you under your skin. One specific conflict, one idea, draw your attention? Take this idea, put in a different place and write about it. Don't get me wrong, this is no fanfiction. Don't take the story or a key element, but one that one moment and develop it further. 

Everybody Has His Own Story
Take a person you don't know, just anybody. It should be somebody you either like or dislike just based on a look or the way he or she behaves. A grumpy co-rider on the train or a funny guy sitting next to you in a coffee. Then, try to come up with a story for them. Who are they, why do they react the way they do? What is their pain, what is their joy. You would be surprised with the potential of this technique. 

Happy story finding
Your writer in a foreign land

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