Ideas for stories come easily to me. However, not all writers and would-be writers can say the same. If you struggle to come up with ideas, or perhaps ideas you think are good enough to sustain an entire story that people will want to read from beginning to end, let me assure you it’s not an impossible feat. In fact, it just might be easier than it seems.
Here’s how a new story came to me a couple of weeks ago: I was staying with a long-time friend at a cabin near a lake. Naturally, as you might expect, we got to talking about mutual friends and acquaintances. A couple of those people had done things that I could very loosely use in a story. Next, since my friend and I are both kayakers, we went out on the lake. Since she knows the waterways quite well, she led me through a series of channels when the water was unusually high for August. Still, there were challenges like getting around a beaver dam and one narrow, brisk channel where we wanted to go upstream. We finally reached a calm, lovely pool. Some days earlier, we had visited the house where John Brown once lived and is buried, now a historic site. I had had no idea he even lived there! I did know that several forts in the region played key roles in the French and Indian War.
I put these disparate elements together into a new story, one I had no notion of writing before my visit. Notice how I’ve shifted from talking about story ideas to story elements—setting, backstory, characters, events. That’s how I cobble together a bunch of my stories. It’s nothing like starting off with a killer idea.
Now here’s my challenge if you are struggling: What events—be they historic or simply fascinating incidents—happened near where you live now or once lived? What about them intrigues you? What have you seen, done, and experienced in these places? Who else was with you? What else can you throw into the mix, especially an obstacle or two? I hope that before you know it, you’ll be in the middle of a fine story that only you can tell.
Why no, you shiny, seductive story idea, I am not–repeat NOT-about to chase after you, forgetting my vows to work faithfully on my current story all the way to the end. Because I’m all about finishing. I don’t need my laptop cluttered with yet more folders full of partials.
Ah but what if I forget about this latest intrigue? Will this idea be lost forever? What if it’s really better than all the rest? OK, so I’ll take a very few minutes and jot down the basic concept. Well, and maybe an opening paragraph. Hmmm, I may as well expand this into the opening scene since I know how it goes and getting it down won’t take very long. Plus the ending because I do know how it ends.
Let’s just add in a quickie outline and character sketches for the protagonist and antagonist. Wouldn’t hurt to add some notes about the setting. Oh and a snippet of terrific dialog just popped into my head. I can’t be expected to let that vanish, can I? So while I’m at it, I may as well write the second scene.
And now my writing time for the day has been consumed. But tomorrow is another day for getting back on track.