While there are times when I have so many ideas for stories that I think I’ll never live long enough to write them all, there are also times when I struggle to come up with a workable plot or scene. If you have that problem, too, try some of these tips to help you through those trouble spots:
1. Flip through a sales flyer or catalog for interesting pictures; use them as part of the description in a scene you are working on or as a visual image of a character in the story.
A picture of a person modeling clothes often captures my imagination for a secondary character. Sometimes the same person appears in several outfits, so I use them to help me give the character a more realistic description. Pictures of a room or house give me ideas for the places my characters live, and make it easier to give a vivid description of the setting. Keep the pictures in a folder labeled with the name of the story so you’ll have something to jog your memory later.
2. Ask a friend or family member a question about what they would do in a certain situation, or how they would react to a particular event.
Although the person doesn’t know the whole story, their comments give me an idea of how others would view what’s happening in my story. I’m the one writing it, and I’m also the one who’s stuck; getting another perspective may take the scene in a more interesting or believable direction.
3. Sit in a mall, or some other public area, and jot down descriptions of a few people who look like interesting characters. That may lead to a new story idea, or give you a new person to put into a story you are currently working on.
For example, a mall security guard or restaurant worker, a family sitting together, or a woman alone at a corner table may spark your imagination. I’ve written complete short stories while sitting at a table in the food court waiting for my daughter to get done shopping. Other character profiles are sitting in a folder, waiting for me to write a story for them.
4. Create an idea folder. Use it to save brief descriptions of things you see or hear that might be useful later.
Whenever I think of a topic that captures my interest, or read a thought that makes me want to know more, I write it down. I keep them in an idea folder, labeled so I can easily find them. I have folders with thoughts on blogging, religion, weird science facts, and interesting things in the news. Some are just snippets of conversations I’ve overheard that would make great dialog for a story.
5. Browse the internet. Read some random articles about odd people or strange events for fresh ideas based on true life.
In addition to reading articles online, there are sites that will come up with random ideas for writers. One entertaining site that generates story ideas is the Random Logline Generator. I haven’t used any of the ideas yet, but love reading them. Here are two examples of possible storylines that site came up with:
A hungry scuba diver, a peculiar plaintiff, and a doctor kidnap a road runner.
The adopted son of a tight-rope walker tries to get into the Guinness Book of World Records in the back of a taxicab.
How do you come up with ideas for your stories?