Tag Archives: creative writing

Ideas! Ideas! Finding Writing Ideas For You Short Story

I’m going to write A Story A Day in May. I bet you could too…

Some days finding ideas is easier than others.

On the days where the story ideas are flowing, stick a bucket under the spigot and catch them all. You’ll need them later.

(And when you come back to them, give them your full attention. “Cell-phone trouser call” might not mean much at first glance, but on a second glance you’ll remember the idea you had for a girlfriend whose boyfriend had an amusing habit of putting his bluetooth headset in his pocket and redialing her by accident. If you give it few moments of serious thought you’ll remember how you thought that might go bad and what tone of story it was going to be. If today’s the day for that story, go for it.)

Here are some prompts to get that idea spigot to open. Get ready with your notebook…

Your past

Think of incidents in your life that have stayed with you: the playground fight when you were 10; the day everyone gathered to watch you complete the Rubik’s cube; your wedding day; that time you embarrassed yourself so horribly that you blushed to think about for five years straight. Can you go back and put a fictional character in that situation? Can she go somewhere with it? Why is she there? Does it happen the same way or does she handle it the way you wish you had? play!

Your Family’s Past

What about all those stories that you heard, growing up? Yu heard them over and over again until you groaned. You might not know exactly what Poughkeepsie looked lik in 1956, but you know the emotional core of the story and you know one or two details that will give your short story authenticity(didn’t your mother always interrupt your dad’s story to rib him about his finely coiffed ‘DA’ hair? And didn’t your dad get her back by reminding her of the gold necklace she was so snooty about, but that turned her neck green?). Re-purpose these stories, with different people and a different setting if you need to. But stay true to the point of the story, to the point the teller was trying to make.

Your future

You know how interviewers ask you where you see yourself in five years? Well, why not turn that into a story? Maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s a character you’ve had rattling around in your head. Maybe it’s a ‘real’ fictional character. Where is Moriarty five years after Holmes’s death? What about Harry Potter? (Now, these would count as ‘fan fiction’ and might represent a breach of trademark or copyright, but if you’re just writing them as a creativity exercise for yourself, you probably shouldn’t worry too much. But you might not want to try to publish these ones. [3. there’s a recent book by Melanie Benjamin called Alice I Have Been which imagines the life of the real girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland)

Obituaries

Obituaries of ordinary people contain wonderful character sketches: the whole family, the era they lived in, their interests, their careers. Sometimes you can imagine the person, their hopes and dreams, from the activities they pursued and the comments of those left behind. Online obituary listings often have ‘guest books’ where loved ones add more detail. OK, maybe you think I’m being ghoulish. I prefer to see this ideas as a tribute to the departed person.

Your world

Look around. What do you see that is out of place? What could it mean? Elizabeth Peters saw a trash bag lying lumpily at the side of the road and thought,

‘Oo, what if that was a dead body?’

Then she wrote a novel – a whole novel! – from that kernel of an idea.

What can you see

A man, talking quietly into a cell phone at the coffee shop? Why quietly? Might we say ‘furtively’? Why is he here and not at work or at home with his wife? Is he meeting his girlfriend? Oh look, a beautiful woman just walked in and sat with him. He smiles too much, is way too chatty for that to be his wife. Is he having an affair? What if his wife arrives? What if he is meeting with an event planner to plan a lavish 40th birthday party for the wife?

Is there a traffic cone on top of a statue in town? We all know students put it there, but who were they? How did they feel? Would they do it again?
There’s a kite stuck in a tree? How did it get there?

An old man sits on a bench, staring at his shoes. Who is he? What is he thinking? What has he seen in his life?


Ideas are everywhere. Keep your eyes open and your notebook handy.

What Are Your Creative Writing Inspiration Sources

I’m going to write A Story A Day in May. Dare to join me?

There are books that I enjoy and there are books that I love.

The ones that I love tend to be the ones that make me impatient to put down the book and pick up a pen. (Then I’m torn because I don’t want to stop reading…)

When I want to do some creative writing I tend to dip into a piece by one of my favourite authors (sometimes that can be a TV show or a movie) to get that fix, before I start.

My “Get Jazzed About Writing” superstars are 1:

Douglas Adams – his mind is so brilliant and his voice so unique that it could seem intimidating. But reading his writing (fiction or non-fiction) makes me so happy that I want to do the same for other readers.

Joss Whedon – (TV/movie writer) because of his storytelling skills and unique voice. He creates worlds that feel real, characters that you can love, puts funny and unexpected lines in their mouths, and then creates story-lines that stay absolutely true to themselves, even if it means sacrificing a beloved character or a happy ending. Every time I find myself sobbing “Damn you, Whedon, I HATE you!” I know that I want to be able to tell stories as well as he does.

Neil Gaiman – For language and heroes and uniqueness, and a bright shining optimism about human nature, lurking amidst the demons and horror, the creepiness and the gore.

Terry Pratchett – for biting satire and observation of humanity and for a way with language for which I would gladly gnaw off my own legs below the knee (but no higher).

Elizabeth Peters – for sheer fun, heroic characters, historical situations and suspense.

Agatha Christie – for writing skill, language and absolute integrity between characters: everyone speaks, moves and acts as an individual.

John O’Hara – his short stories about life in a fictional Pennsylvania town really appeal to me; and seem like a great blueprint for turning your own life experiences into fiction (one story simply follows a boy as he walks to his father’s office to show him his new riding clothes, but it is absolutely gripping, and we learn a ton about the boy, his father, the town, the era; all in one very short, very tight scene.)

Ray Bradbury – the master of the “what if?” What if you grew up in a town where rockets to the moon were as common as airliners are to us? What if the Loch Ness Monster was real? What if your husband piloted spaceships for a living, and it was a dangerous job? What if books were banned?

What are your ‘get jazzed about writing’ inspirations?

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