I’m often asked where I find ideas for my stories. As a writer, I’ve learned that ideas are everywhere.
Many of the magazine stories I’ve written have been based on a true experience. One such story was about my son. He’d saved money to buy a set of Legos. He was so excited when he’d finally accumulated enough money from doing odd jobs and chores to buy the Legos. He thumbed through the catalog and found the order form. He placed the order form and his money inside an envelope and left it on my desk. While the envelope sat on my desk, Hurricane Katrina hit.
My son came home from school and talked about the devastating effects of the storm and how many children had to leave their homes, pets, and toys. He then ran to my desk and scooped up the envelope. He told me he wanted to donate all of his money to a local Katrina fund. Not only was I proud of my son for his decision, I had a basis for a story that I then sold to a magazine.
Ideas are everywhere. Tidbits of conversation can become the base of a story. Newspaper stories, friend’s experiences, historical accounts, local folklore, myths, or dreams can all provide nuggets for stories. The trick is becoming aware of potential stories.
Here are some ideas:
Take a notebook to the mall. Write down different bits of conversation, descriptions of people you see, and play with various scenarios.
Sift through some newspapers and look for human interest stories. I once read an account of a woman whose husbands all ended up committing suicide in the same way. Children of the dead men accused the woman of killing the men. Is there a story? Perhaps.
Watch TV news and see if it triggers ideas for stories. What about a man who risks his life to save homeless people over and over again? Or the woman who lives with a chimpanzee that then goes berserk? These wouldn’t be full-blown novels, but could form a foundation for possible novels.
Family history can also be a valuable place to find story ideas. I have an ancestor who emigrated from Italy, became a chef, and cooked meals for some of the presidents of the United States. Or what about the ancestor who was a horse thief when America was still a frontier?
Look around you. Ideas are everywhere. Once you start looking, you’ll discover so many ideas you’ll have a hard time keeping track of them. Be sure to write them all down in an idea notebook. And then you’ll be like other writers who declare, “I’ll never live long enough to write about all the ideas I have.”