talkwrite

TalkWrite: Where Do Stories Come From?

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Where do writers get their ideas? We discussed the theme at our first Monday evening TalkWrite group for 2018.

Inspiration can come from the world around you:

  • Locations: a creepy house; an idyllic location can inspire thoughts such as “what happened there?” or “what could happen there?”
    • ie: “What if there was a body?”
  • Experiences: for a lot of writers, their day-to-day lives may influence the stories they want to write. It might be funny anecdotes around your work, or you might visit a place or have some sort of experience that you wish to share – either through fiction or as a memoir.
    • ie: what sort of interesting/weird things could happen at a science fiction convention?
  • Something that makes you wonder:
    • companies with interesting names
      • ie, Merlin’s Couriers (what do they deliver?)
    • advertisements
      • ie, car advertisement, costs $19,999 plus ORC (What if your new car actually came with an orc?)
  • Newspaper articles: often they only tell you the outcome of an event – so what caused it? Why would someone act in such a way?
    • Also Newspaper headlines: sometimes these sound more interesting than the actual story proves to be. So, write the more interesting one!
  • Conversations: either overheard, or that you have participated in.
  • Historic events/people: if you have a passion for a particular period or figure from history, that works as a great starting point for a story and fictionalised stories around real people are quite popular.
  • Dreams: keep a notebook beside your bed, and remember, that’s where Stephenie Meyer found Edward.
  • Songs: either the lyrics or the general theme of a song can prove inspiration to writing, just beware of breaching copyright by following or quoting the lyrics too closely.

Write the story you would enjoy reading

If you’re really stuck on what to write, sit down and make a list of the things that you enjoy the most in the books you’re reading and the movies you watch. Chances are, you’ll be able to find a shape of a fresh, new story within them. A prime example of this is Eragon by Christopher Paolini. It has elements of Tolkien, Star Wars, and, whilst being somewhat generic, became phenomenally popular and was actually a really good read (although I confess, I never finished the series). Do you enjoy cozy murder mysteries and like to knit? Well, why not combine the two? (This is a surprisingly populated genre).

Twists on Familiar Stories/Ideas

  • Retell a fairy tale with a new setting, time period or from a different character’s perspective.
  • Write the story of a side character in an out-of-copyright classic novel (ie: Captain Hook).
  • Take a fairly standard/cliched plot and twist or parody it
    • ie: the standard “quest for the McGuffin” narrative of some fantasy novels
  • Social or political commentary can also be used to create a powerful fantasy novel, a heart-breaking romance, a tense thriller, or a black comedy, depending on your personal genre tastes.

Many stories begin with a “What If?”

  • What if cats really ruled the world?
  • What if my neighbour began worshipping me as a god?
  • What if aliens have been amongst us all this time?

Writing Prompts and Word Lists

There are various resources on the internet for finding inspiration. These may work for some authors – particularly those who just wish to ignite their writing fire.

  • Images: they do say a picture paints a thousand words. Spend some time on pinterest looking up your favourite themes (or just “Story ideas”), but I’d recommend setting a timer. Find a picture that inspires you and see what questions you can create around it that might be turned into a story.
  • Writing Prompts: these are generally a sentence or two about a situation ending with a few questions. Great for getting inspired to write a short story – or possibly taking it all the way to a novel!
  • Word Lists: We did an exercise in a writing class where we were given three words (which included “rickshaw” and “encyclopedia”) and asked to write a short story around them. It was fun – and everyone’s story was completely different! Random word lists can be found on the Internet.
  • There are also numerous dice and card decks available to make you think and create.
    • Rory’s Story Cubes
    • The Reckless Deck: to create spec-fic mash-ups
    • The Storymatic: Pick up a card and watch the story unfold before your eyes!
    • Dixit: Not specifically for writing inspiration, but has plenty of strange and beautiful illustrations.
    • Once Upon a Time: Another game that can be used for inspiration, they even have a book available with how to use it to write your own fairytales.

Want to try and write a story based on prompts? Find below a picture (from Pixabay and a Creative Common) and a list of random words I’ve generated using an online generator.

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Cemetery, cave, stem, compartment, suntan, candle, solid, rib, courage, constitution

If you write a story based on one, or both, let us know in the comments below!

Or if you have other ways of “finding your story”, we’d love to hear it.