Friday Fun – SO … Where D’You Get Your Story Ideas?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We recently asked you what questions you’d like answered in our Friday Fun post. Today, we’re answering the following reader question:


JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Ahhh … the always-asked question about where story ideas come from. This is a query with no right answer. The genesis of each story is unique and sometimes completely inexplicable.

I can, however, point you to two of my past blog posts: 4 Steps to Capture the Muse – Documenting Ideas and Your Writer’s Mind.

I’ll also offer up this video featuring the inimitable Neil Gaiman providing one of the most informative and entertaining responses I’ve ever heard to this question:

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I think it’s more a question of how do you get the ideas to STOP flowing in? I could spend so much time every day writing down ideas for stories, articles, blog posts, etc., that it’s more of a challenge to know which ideas to grab and make note of than worry about where to look for ideas.

When struggling to find inspiration to write, take a minute to pause and think about what it is you’re truly finding a challenge. Is it really that you have NO inspiration to write? NO idea what to write about? NO motivation to create?

I find the best way to find inspiration is to show up and start writing – without thinking. Just start writing. Words my be gobbly-gook and make no sense. Maybe it’s simply writing “What do I write about What do I write about What do I write about” over and over until suddenly you find yourself writing about something.

Give it a shot. You have nothing to lose.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin: I’m with Lisa, for me it’s about filtering the ideas that are floating through my head. I try to keep a running list of things that have caught my attention and stay with me for more than 30 seconds. If I overhear a snippet of conversation and it’s still with me 2 days later I write it down.  I saw the movie Spotlight on Monday night and I’m still reflecting on the movie and the broader story. Who knows where that will lead. =

I also play the “What if?” game. What if Peyton Manning and Tom Brady had to share a jail cell when they are in their 70’s? What do they talk about? Do they talk? Why are they in a jail cell in the first place?

Sometimes an issue is important to me (i.e. the maiming and killing of people with albinism in Tanzania) and I rage at the computer until I get my ideas out and then see what can be done to turn it into a salable piece.

My fictional WIP features a heroine with multiple chemical sensitivities. This came out of issues my husband and daughter have with VOCs (volatile organic compounds). There are gems to mined in every aspect of your life, just pick up the pen or sit at the keyboard and start typing. In my experience people who have trouble coming up with topics to write about are letting their self-editor get the upper hand. Lock him or her in a box somewhere and just start brain dumping.

For more inspiration, I highly recommend Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: I’m interested in ordinary, daily life, so I find ideas everywhere; for me the trick is to capture them, which is why I carry pen and paper with me at all times.

Like Lee, I ask, “What if?” Case in point: I was stuck in construction traffic near my house when the state highway was relocated. While waiting for my turn to bumpety-bump over the dirt lane, I wondered what Vermont was like before the interstates were built and what happened during construction. I did a lot of research, including interviews. The result: my novel, Elegy for a Girl.

Ideas for radio commentaries and my weekly blog come at me thick and fast, alongside the rush of daily life. And ideas, scenes, characters, voices all bubble up on my daily walk.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I don’t have much to add to the answer listed by my colleagues above, except to say that if I don’t write ideas down, I end up thinking I didn’t have any ideas that day. If I make a point to write my ideas down, (or record them as voice memos in my phone,) I’m always surprised by how many ideas I have.

For my life coaching blog, I write about things that come up in my daily life or in the lives of my clients. For other writing, I often write about things that happened years ago that have stayed with me. Recently, a writer friend asked me why this incident I was trying to write about was so important to me. I realized it was much more than one incident and I suddenly could see a thread running through a number of situations that happened to me and others in my life–they were all connected in my mind.



12 thoughts on “Friday Fun – SO … Where D’You Get Your Story Ideas?

  1. The clamoring – the constant shoving, the cajoling, the begging….make them stop. Life is crammed with story ideas and character waiting to be noticed. The trick is to narrow it down and focus on one.
    Really good to sit down and start writing to see what takes shape – and to remember to go back and cut the wandering first paragraphs.

  2. I have a long list of story ideas that I’ve been accumulating faster than I can write them, using the same “noticing stuff” and “what if” techniques others have talked about. But I’ve been amazed at how many new ideas I get from photo prompts in the various flash fiction challenges I participate in. Since I’m writing in a low-tech world, I usually can’t use the photo as it is, so it’s already one step removed: how would this general idea of a thing work in my world? For instance, they don’t have bikes, but what’s closest… a donkey? Fine. Okay, so who is doing or using whatever that thing is, and what’s their conflict/challenge? In what culture and period does this happen? And next thing you know I have a story idea, usually one substantially longer than whatever the flash fiction word count limit is, to my dismay.

    In theory, if I ever ran out of story ideas, I could look at random photos and write something based on that (I already have a folder of photos that look intriguing). But I’m with many of you: my problem is usually too many ideas, not running out!

  3. If someone is naturally curious and a keen observer there is no short of inspiration to be found in day to day life. Writers/artists (I believe) have another way of seeing this world which afford them to see stories/art in mundane things/occurrences. My mother called it over active imagination.

  4. Like many of the above comments, I don’t usually “get” them. They simply show up! I write them down in a file with tons of backup. Where do they come from? Hmmm, sometimes from casual observation or from a memory that pops into my head out of absolutely nowhere, from reading! Just the other day got an idea for a story from a Gardening magazine. yep.

  5. I liked the comment ‘brain dumping’ written above. 2016 finds me on a new creative journey. A sequel to a book which I truly thought was finished. Then I had a thought what if? I simply dumped the thought down on a page. Then I had a question running around in my mind Why? Oh why? Oh why? I am answering the question while still not sure even what the situation is about. I simply have to trust it will all flow into something cohesive. Writing is like breathing in, out, in out, thoughts, experiences. etc. You’ll understand my personal dilemma when I thought it was finished.

    • I thought the same. Watched this at work. Now my colleagues are wondering what I am cackling at. I’m often baffled by the ‘where do you get your ideas?’ question, like there’s a right way to get them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s