I’m a writer of many things, in several venues and more than one genre. Over the years I’ve heard that time-honored question more times than I can count: Where do you get your ideas?
Yeah, well, my question is more like, why aren’t you getting ideas every minute?
Just look around. No, not at the blank screen in front of you that you’re staring at and trying to come up with a story to write and fill all that white space. Embrace the white space, there’s no need to hate it. Really. Novel or script, you can fill it fast (or at least have a steady stream of ideas of stories).
Don’t believe me? Struggling? Well, here ya go.
Ideas for writers are everywhere. All around you every day. No matter what you write.
The obvious starter is the news. Stuff happens every day. Good stuff and mostly reported bad. There’s also the ‘on the road’ and ‘slice of life’ stuff you see all the time in the media. Read about it, pay attention.
Then put your imagination to work. Think about the story and how it could end differently that what you’ve seen. Or how could it begin differently for that matter.
Every day stuff.
A guy on a bike gets hit by a train. Really? How’d that happen the train being so big and loud? Was it suicide? Did someone push him? Did the alien light plunk him down right in front of the train after he’d been abducted? Or, why was the guy out riding a bike in the first place?
Recreation and exercise? Was he pedaling madly away from the scene of a crime? Was he on his way to murder his ex-wife’s lover and the train took him out before he could get there? Run away with me imagination…run away! It could be a comedy, a tragedy, a drama, a SciFi twist. Just keep playing.
Dreams are another great resource. Your dreams, your friends and relatives dreams. Even your kids dreams. They can be entertaining, amusing, dark, confusing. Lots of grist for the mill there.
There’s always the handy ‘what if’ question for writers and it’s really my favorite. Out of the blue I’ll think, “what if three supernatural beings decided to pick off world leaders, removing them to another space time – what would happen on either side of the divide?”
Or for the more ‘everyday’ “what if a bridge being crossed collapses and a couple is trapped in an air pocket beneath the wreckage in the water?” You can get really twisted in these extrapolations. Sometimes I jot a list of what ifs just for a bit of mental exercise when I’m killing time at the dentist’s office or somewhere.
Think about journalling. No, not in the locked box manner prescribed by most. Just a small notebook where you jot down thoughts and things you might witness. Or you might use a tablet or smart phone you can leave yourself messages on.
You can jot down things that might come in handy later, just the facts, ma’am, or you can let your imagination run wild and embellish.
What am I talking about?
Well, how about when you’re in a restaurant and there’s a loud, obnoxious person or screaming baby. You probably sat there and suffered through it like a good, polite person, but what would you have liked to do? Write that down.
You’re at a public swimming pool, lap swimming time, but a bunch of idiots are playing some water game tossing a ball around, bouncing it off your back as you try to swim laps.
You’d probably give up and leave, but what would you fantasize about doing? And what would happen in the script or novel you’re writing if your character did that?
Another source of inspiration and thought is to really shake things up. Mix different scenarios together. Use something you care deeply about and stir briskly into something you know nothing about.
Say you’re passionate about animal rescue, getting dogs and cats into great homes, but you know nothing about long distance trucking.
You might write a script or novel about someone who can’t manage to found a rescue shelter but does organize long-distance truckers into a network for sending rescue animals from over-crowded shelters to parts of the country where there’s a shortage of adoptables. You could go for comedic, deeply heart-warming, dramatic, tragic, whatever direction you decide to take.
Story ideas are all around you every day. Don’t blink them out, open your eyes and embrace them. Make it a habit to let your imagination run wild as you witness life around you and you’re never going to be at a loss for a new script or novel.
Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.