Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hey, What a Great Idea!

At St. Davids Christian Writers conference this past June, I attended a storytelling workshop led by creative and inspiring author David Pierce. As writers, we often struggle to come up with good story ideas. Where do good story ideas come from? Pierce offered the following suggestions.

• Write about things you know. A doctor might write medical mysteries, a lawyer might write legal thrillers. If you’re an alien, write sci-fi.

• Study billboards and other advertising. See a good-looking model on a Calvin Klein underwear ad? Might it inspire you to write a romance story? View a commercial that makes you laugh out loud? Mull it over and write a humor essay.

• Think about your possessions. What do they mean to you? What can you do with them? What if someone stole your favorite (fill in the blank). Stand in your garage and randomly focus on a garden tool, a woodworking saw, a tattered beach chair. Allow your mind to wander.

• Ever come across a new word that fascinates you? Look it up. Can you write a story based on the definition?

• Have you recently been impacted by a concept – truth, justice, love, insanity -- and you can’t stop thinking about it. Can this concept inspire a story?

• You’re driving down the road or strolling along a sidewalk when you see something that causes you to do a double-take. A man pushes a grocery cart carrying everything he owns. Children giggle and shriek as they run through a gushing fire hydrant. A woman sits on a park bench and feeds her dog with a baby spoon. Unusual unique sightings can spark an idea for a story.

• Think about current fads. Pierce used the example of the “ . . . For Dummies” books. What if there was a book called “How to Kill Your Spouse for Dummies”? What might a character do with that?

• Take an established story and change the point of view. For example, tell Cinderella’s story from a step-sister’s perspective.

• Re-tell an old tale in modern day times. What would The Great Gatsby look like in 2010?

• Combine concepts from two different established stories. Think Robinson Caruso meets Hansel and Gretel. Would you dream up Island of the Witch Doctor?

• Watch the evening news, read magazines and newspapers. Current events provide continual story fodder.

• Sit in a crowded restaurant, an airport gate, a doctor’s office waiting room, or a hotel lobby and listen to the dialogue around you. Nonchalantly zero in on your children chattering away in the backseat of the car. Cell phone conversations can be especially interesting as you imagine what the other person is saying. Eavesdropping can be a most rewarding avenue for story ideas.

• Above all, in any situation or potential idea for a story, play “what if.” What if a chef at Kyoto loses control of his knife at a crowded table? What if you miss your exit on a highway in west Texas and the next exit is 235 miles away? What if, what if, what if . . . you get the idea?


  1. Angie, great post. Sorry I forgot to get it posted last night. It was next to the last thing I thought about before I chased another rabbit down the trail...

  2. This post is terrific. 'nuf said.