Friday, 24 June 2016

Generating Story Ideas

Although my first few posts on this blog have been about alpacas, I’m going to switch direction just a little today. For those who know me or have read the first post, I am more than just an alpaca owner.

Writing is a big part of my life as well. I try to write every day – whether it be an article, a short story or in my personal journal. It is while writing in the latter that I come up with many ideas for articles, eBooks or novellas. My writing interests are as varied as the rest of me, but for the most part I like to share what I have learned with others.

I stepped out of my comfort zone in November 2012 when I registered for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I honestly had no idea which direction my writing was going to take, especially since I had never attempted fiction before then. My articles and other published works had all been nonfiction.

In a sense, the alpacas were my inspiration for the story. Once I had the basic idea, I let the words flow without knowing where the story would take me. I was, as is known in the literary world, a pantser. No plot; no outline – just write. The Hidden Estate was born.

The second book was a little easier for me to write, and I took the time to do some outlining. I knew where I wanted the story to go. I cannot say so much for the third in the series. I was well on my way to getting the first draft written, and then my dad passed away suddenly on July 31, 2014. I was a mess inside and out, and anything to do with writing was simply not happening. It wasn’t until several months later that I attempted it again, and added about 20,000 words to the manuscript. I was stuck again, and set it aside.

My job as a library assistant has been good for me, and I recently had a patron come up to me and compliment me on my first two novels. She asked when the next one was going to be out, and I admitted to her I was very stuck and had set it aside. Talking to her has given me the push I needed to move forward with it. Perhaps by the end of the summer I will have the first draft finished.

Now, to get back on track. Story ideas can be all around us; sometimes we just have to know where to look. Last summer I entered a short story contest put on by Polar Expressions Publishing (no entry fee, and no more than 750 words). The two biggest challenges for me were 1) a story idea, and 2) keeping it within the word count parameters. I came up with the story idea while we were camping one weekend; and I wasn’t thinking about it at the time. Surroundings play a big part in where our minds take us, and as writers we have to be open to new ideas. Mystery on the Lake was written, entered and made it into the book Wherever We Roam, which meant I made the cut. I didn’t get any cash prize or honourable mention, but making it into the book was good enough for me.

In order to come up with story ideas, you just need to be open-minded. Keeping a notebook close by (or utilizing the notepad app on your phone) is ideal for jotting down ideas when they present themselves. You do not need to have an entire plot in your head; that can come later. Brainstorming is one way to get a list started. It doesn’t mean you have to write a story about everything you think of, but it gives you a good base.

Some things to consider are:
1.       Life events
2.       Interests
3.       Places you’ve been
4.       Places you want to go
5.       Observing others
6.       Reading
7.       Watching the news
8.       Taking a walk
9.       Going for a drive in the country
10.   Careers others have
11.   Careers you have pursued
12.   Volunteer work
13.   Where you live
14.   Museums
15.   National parks

What has the above listed prompted you to think about? Do you see a mystery in the future, or perhaps historical fiction? Use one sheet of paper for each number and write down as many possibilities as you can think of. You may find yourself even plotting out a story, and that’s alright.

Has the list above given you any ideas? Comment below, without revealing your secrets.  

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