Where do you guys get your story ideas from? There’s gonna be a lot of different answers, I know.
It could be a movie you saw, a book you read, a video game you played or even a dream you had. Or, of course, something that you experienced. There’s no right or wrong way. Whatever works! A lot of my stories come from history. Some, just pop out of my head. They’re swimming around in there, all the time. Just got to reach in there and grab one of the little buggers.
I got an idea for a story, once, by seeing a street sign. Out by me there are two roads that cross one another. One is Anita and the other is called Bourland. I saw the signs hanging over the street; Anita Avenue and Bourland Road. Hmmm…Anita Bourland. What a great name for a character. I started running the idea around in my mind. Who could that be? It sounds like an old film star. Maybe she’s in an old age home. Yeah…she’s being taken care of by a young girl who works there who doesn’t believe all of the stories that Anita is telling her about the great old movie stars of the past. Now, I’m driving and I’m thinking about all of this. Such is the messed up brain of a writer. I got home and started writing it. It’s one of the many stories out on the back burner.
That’s the way it happens for me, sometimes. There are so many story ideas all around us that I can’t understand some of the things I see people asking in the writers sections of Facebook. “What should my character do for a living?” somebody asks. “I’m trying to think of a good idea for a story that I want to have take place in my home town. Any suggestions?” says another one. My favorite was one who wants to do a non-fiction, self- help, book. She says, “I’m writing a book called, ‘How to make a Million Dollars on E-Bay in 14 Days.’ Does anyone have any ideas on what I should put in it?”
I had to answer that one.
I said, “If you are writing a book called ‘How to make a Million Dollars on E-Bay in 14 days,’ and are asking US what to put in the book, then maybe you shouldn’t be writing a book called ‘How to make a Million Dollars on E-Bay in 14 Days.’ Because you obviously don’t KNOW how to make a million dollars on e-bay in 14 days.”
I did start the post with the words, “No offence, but…” I’m not all that bad a guy. But really, was that a bit too harsh? I don’t think so. How can anyone who calls themselves a writer be asking other people what she should write?
It’s got to come from you. Having ideas is actually a lot more important than knowing how to write. That part you can learn. Nobody can teach you how to have an imagination, however. I see two people arguing in a car and I see a story. A text message just came over their cell phone. The wife is angry because it’s a woman asking her husband about getting together. Uh…oh, busted. “Are you cheating on me?” she’s screaming as he’s trying to navigate through the traffic. I was sitting outside with my laptop one morning and sipping my coffee when I heard a motorcycle roaring by. I was annoyed at the racket at that time in the day and began typing a little snippet about a ‘bike rider who is screeching through a quiet neighborhood one morning and runs a stop sign. A car is coming and, well…you know. Yeah, I killed him. Felt good.
Sometimes I worry myself. My wife is from Chile and we spent a week down there on vacation. We were at a beautiful beach and I saw a girl walking into the water. My brain went into story mode. I imagined my character sitting on the beach watching the same scene. All of a sudden some men run up and try to grab her. He saves her and winds up getting tangled up in a story involving drug dealers and the white slave trade. I thought all of that just by watching a girl walk into the water. Is that even normal?
But that’s the way my mind works. It’s not always a good thing. It means that I have what OUR LEADER calls “popcorn kittens.” Ideas all over the place that aren’t complete. But boy, if I ever get to them all and finish them, I’ll have quite a body of work out there!
So much is going on around us all the time that a story idea should be easy. And if you can’t think of any fictional ideas than maybe non-fiction is for you. But if you need to ask others what you should put into your book about becoming a millionaire on e-bay, then maybe that’s not for you either. Maybe, just maybe…(Dare I say it?) you aren’t a writer. And that’s okay. It’s not necessarily a good thing to be someone who drives around talking to himself about a story idea he got after reading a street sign.