Where Do You Get Ideas for a Short Story?
It’s pretty tough to start writing if you don’t have a starting point. So here are SIX ways to start getting your head into the game of story writing. Remember, nothing is off limits within your imagination… let it go.
First: BECOME A KEEN OBSERVER
You must hone your observation skills and really open your eyes to what’s going on around you.
The world is constantly moving and morphing. No matter where you are–the grocery store, the beach, church, your car, –anywhere– be prepared to watch people, their mannerisms, actions, words, gestures, etc.
Watching or observing strangers is a bit of a hobby of mine… No, I’m not a stalker. I watch from a distance and let My Twisted Writer Brain take it from there.
Second: ADD IMAGINATION
Let your imagination run wild and build a story about a person/stranger you observe or the situation surrounding him.
Here’s an example: You’re on the beach and about 15 feet to your left is a man, around 40, he’s alone, he has a phone, and his skin is burning in the sun. He stares out over the water and seems unaware of the people around him.
Who is this guy? Is he what he appears? What did he last eat? Did he consume a bottle of wine with it? Was there a body laying on the floor as he sipped his wine? Is he a grandpa? or perhaps he never married? He’s burning in the sun yet he hasn’t moved… hmm…Is he waiting for someone?
Build scenarios in your head… Seriously just let your imagination go wild.
With this scenario I may think to myself what actions I’d take? Be the fly on the wall. What would I ask him? Would he answer? Maybe look up at me with tears in his eyes?
There’s so many directions you could go.
As a writer, you’ve got your notebook close by (because you never leave home without it, right?) so you can scribble down some thoughts. Let the scenario fester in your brain and turn it into a short story.
Three: ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS
Those are the most important prompts that can get your brain moving.
Back to the guy on the beach. Ask all these questions and start to build a scenario around him.
Maybe his family just passed and he’s here to say good-bye. He’s lost in his thoughts and doesn’t feel the heat of the sun.
Take that SCENARIO and begin to build a character around it.
Who is this man? What was his job? What happened to his family? Why the beach?
Use simple observations to answer the questions and also to build up a memorable character–one that evokes some sort of emotional response.
Four: CONSIDER THE UNSEEN
Secrets… Does someone have a secret? Great place to begin a story.
Obsessions… Perhaps a woman is obsessed with a dress in the window that she could never afford. What happens?
Jealousy… or any human emotional stance that people act on. Another may be anger or lust…
Vices… Don’t under estimate the vices…sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll… How do these play a part in a story?
Five: SOCIAL MEDIA
Oh my, there’s drama on social media and lots of story ideas.
Scroll through and take notes. Who are the people on the other end of the Twitter feed? Let that imagination run…
Six: THE WORLD
The world is a busy and boisterous thing that we wander through without seeing most of it.
The next time you watch the news, turn on your writer brain.
Ask the questions.
Perhaps the news story is about someone who just died. Shot and killed. Ask: did he see the bullet coming? Who was the last person he saw? What was that interaction? Did he have children? Was he a good guy? A bad guy who started out good?
You could take this questioning to many places, all of which could be developed into a short story.
Take those newscast or shows you’re watching and put YOURSELF into the situations. Or your friend or mom. Perhaps you see someone being handcuffed… imagine walking by and seeing that and then recognizing that it’s your mom. Write it from your pov and then rewrite from the mom’s pov.
Think big. Don’t stop.
Remember: think Scenario, Character, Story….
Think about a news story where it snows in California and two strangers end up locked in a diner. Is this the beginning of a romance? Why were they destined to meet? Why do we meet anyone for that matter? Maybe they share something in common….Go!
Within the world there’s books, events (you see all those people scrambling from a runaway train–what’s their story?), happy stories, school, reading, nature, pets, weddings, birthdays ….
You probably have a thousand stories in yourself that you didn’t even know are there.
I hope this helps you get some of those stories onto paper.
Good Luck. Let me know how it goes.