Today I welcome writer Tom Austin onto my blog, who is sharing his advice on where to find story ideas.
Big thanks to Tom for being today’s guest poster, please make sure to check out his links and details at the end of this post.
Stories are something we all have inside us. Some are romantic and some are not. Some are fantasy-oriented and some have their roots firmly entrenched in gritty reality.
If you’re having trouble deciding what to write about here are a few tips…
Getting Ideas From Books or Articles
Stories are all around us. One of the best places to get ideas is to read a book. It doesn’t matter if it’s a physical book or an e-book. But once you’ve finished you should read some more.
That should get some creative sparks flying in your brain. But sometimes that just doesn’t work. Sometimes the terminology used in writing can bog you down and get a little intimidating.
Somebody might ask what is your favourite genre is. All they are asking is “What type of book is it?” When you’re reading a book don’t stick to reading one specific type of book. Try to expose yourself to as many different types as you possibly can.
Nora Roberts writes romances, Kurt Vonnegut writes science fiction. And D. C. Fontana writes books associated with the STAR TREK franchise. And don’t forget the greats like J. D. Salinger, Hemingway, Jules Verne, and Bram Stoker.
Maybe some of the books you hated in high school or college deserve a second look. I had to read “The Catcher In The Rye” by J. D. Salinger in grade 11 and discovered I loved it. I felt he had written it just for me.
And don’t forget the new and up and coming authors like Meg Sorick and Ari Meghlen. Meg will give you a really good mystery with some romance tossed in for good measure, and Ari Meghlen writes traditional fantasy, sci-fi, and what she calls “preternatural urban fantasy.”
Getting Ideas From Another Medium
You may have a problem reading a book. Take me for example. I’m just not a reader. I’ll be lucky to read three books a year. So I have to look elsewhere for inspiration. A great medium to consider is movies.
You’ve probably seen a film where the main character does or says something that makes him or her stand out from everybody else. Most of the time after watching a film I’d say to myself “If I had written or directed this film I would have the main character do this or say this instead of doing or saying that.”
That can be the kernel for a story. Have a notebook and write down all the lines you liked. Somewhere in all those lines of dialogue is a story just crying out to be written.
And sometimes after seeing a film, you feel the producers could have done a lot more with a character before they killed him/her off. Don’t just sit there, write the story for the film you wanted to see.
Ok, movies just don’t do anything for you either. Where else can you look? The news is one place. It can be a gold mine of ideas for stories, blog posts, etc. The news is full of ideas. Reading a real newspaper can be a very enjoyable experience the online editions can’t rival (yet).
You can actually feel the paper. Some times if you’re reading an old edition you can even smell the dust. Newspapers are tactile. The electronic versions try to be just as good if not better than their paper counterparts.
There was a time when people coming home from a long day at work read the paper. People taking public transit all had their own copy of a newspaper. Imagine seeing sixty-five people in a cramped subway car all reading a newspaper.
Now when you take public transit people are plugged in playing with their cell phones, listening to an mp3 player or reading a John Grisham novel on an e-reader. I would like to read a story about a newspaper from the point of view of the newspaper.
Maybe you like to get your news from a radio or TV. Maybe you prefer to read it quietly on your phone or watch it on your television. However, you get your news fix it’s sure to be peppered with ideas for a story.
There are those who prefer not read, watch or hear the news. And some days I don’t blame them. So, what do you do then? You may not want to know what’s going on in the world (and as I write this I don’t blame them one bit) but you’re still part of it. (There’s a story idea in that paragraph.)
Sometimes you want to write a story but you have no idea what to write about. Look at the environment around you. On the wall is a calendar. Aside from the fact that it still says it’s last month try to write a story from the point of view of the calendar.
Try to imagine whats it sees and what it hears. Try to write a story from the point of view of an inanimate object. I used to write Beatle fan fiction. Instead of writing a story of four lads from Liverpool England I wrote a story from the point of view of John Lennon’s Rickenbacker guitar (It’s a 325-63 model). It was published by an internet fan fiction site called Rooftop Sessions.
If you’re still stuck (and I really hope you’re not ) write about yourself. There’s only one of you, and you know yourself best. Tell us what it was like in grade one. Was there a bully? Was there a green-board or a blackboard? What was your teacher’s name?
Some Final Thoughts…
Writing is not rocket science. Absolutely anybody can do it. Just how well it turns out depends entirely on you. There are all sorts of things to remember. The neat thing about writing is that when we think we’re finished and have produced the best piece of prose since War And Peace was written we have all sorts of chances to improve it.
This process is called editing. That’s best done a few days after you finish writing and have moved on to something else. Hopefully, you’re engrossed in writing something else and have forgotten about what you originally wrote about.
Now it’s time to write in all the words you forgot. You might even ask yourself “how in &%@#! did I forget those…” or something like that. You might even clean up some of your grammatical horror shows.
Never let it get in your mind that a comma is the same thing as a coma. A comma looks like this “,” and a coma is the name of a really creepy book by Robin Cook. Now, with all that said and done its time to write. Just pick up your pen, turn on your computer and write!
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Ok, you’re asking yourself “Just who the heck is this Tom Austin person and how come I’ve never heard of him?”. Well, I could say that Tom is an oversized hobbit with a thyroid problem but that wouldn’t be the truth.
Tom lives in Toronto, Canada with his bride of 37 years. He writes mostly for pleasure but would dearly love to be published. He has been writing on and off (mostly on) since the seventies.
He’s dabbled in science-fiction, historical fiction, and romance (some times called women’s fiction), and Beatles Fan Fiction. He can usually be found lurking around his writer’s website called Abitsa.
Since his website went online in the summer of 2017 he has produced four series length stories called Panooksa – a story of two doctors sucked into another realm via a mirror, a sequel of sorts called The Second Realm, Summons From A Far –a story of where another pair of doctors who go to Scotland to discover their roots only discover their future is firmly rooted in the past.
And most recently Tom wrote Blue Cottage where a disgraced radio reporter and a reclusive writer suffering from throat cancer learn they are neighbors, and a great deal more to each other.
He is currently working on a new story he’s calling “The Next Plain”. A man discovers a new – an eternal – plain of existence.
This post was written by a guest writer. Please check out their details above.