Showing posts with label ideas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ideas. Show all posts

Thursday, April 25

Getting Story Ideas

Getting Story Ideas

I'm starting a new short story but have only a vague idea about what I want to do. Something involving either an antihero or an extremely flawed character, but the story itself hasn't knit together.

Sure, this is going to be a short story so I don't need to love the seed idea in the way I do for a novel. Short stories only inhabit me for a few days then they are completed, birthed, and given over to the world, but 80,000 word novels can sit with me for years. That's an idea I really have to identify with.

But, even so, I haven't been able to conjure up a new short story idea, one I love enough to devote 20 or so hours of my life to. 

So when I saw Melinda Leigh's article, Stumped for Story Ideas? it was as though I heard trumpets. Yes! I thought, this couldn't have been more for me if the author had put my name on it.

Newspaper Headlines

Melinda suggests looking at newspaper headlines when we're stumped for ideas. She writes,
I’m going to share my little secret. Some of my plot ideas come from news headlines. Here’s my trick:  I don’t click through to the article. Instead, I let my imagination fill in all the details.
Of course! We've all done this at one time or another, but it's something I neglected to try this time. So, let's do it.

The first place I looked was CNN but many of the headlines are about world affairs but I know that my story takes place in Vermont, in a small isolated town. (Actually, I didn't know that until I wrote it just now. Huh! Well, it's working!)

Here's something:

A rare gathering of presidents: Hail to the chiefs. All five living presidents are together today to launch George W. Bush's presidential library.

Also, on the same page is an advertisment for Anthorny Bourdain's new show,

Parts Unknown

Wouldn't that be a great title: Parts Unknown? Especially if it was about a serial killer with what used to be called wendigo psychosis?

And, no, I'm not making that up, you can read about it here: Wendigo. (Remind you of anyone? Hannibal Lector perhaps?)

Here's another headline, this time from The Guardian:

UK crime at lowest level for 30 years

I wonder how the level of crime is being reduced? I can think of a few delectable possibilities.

Old Scandals

To be honest, I wasn't inspired by the news headlines, so I tried searching for "scandals." Still the pickings were slim. Then I happened upon this:

Mindy McCready: Fifth Victim of 'Celeb Rehab' Curse

I have NO idea what the article is about. A coven of rogue witches? A rehab clinic that is 'disappearing' their clientele? Or perhaps a previously unknown disease?

Why You Should Never Borrow Justin Bieber's Car

Assassins? Unconventional security measures? Being transformed to look like Justin (he's handsome and rich, but being in the public eye constantly must have its drawbacks)?

Michael Phelps Hooks Up With Most Notorious Hollywood Waitress

It's the first time I've seen "most notorious" paired with "waitress." 

Still, I think Melinda's headlines were better:

“Crude Joke Costs Two People their Jobs”
“Fighter Apparently Tried to Fake Own Death”
“Shootout in Texas may be Linked to Colo. Deaths”
“Manhunt Begins in Coney Island Shootings”
“Congolese Warlord Arrives at War Crimes Court Jail”

I still don't know what my next short story is going to be about, but I've got some possibilities. I'll take it. (grin)

I know this is the most common question a writer gets asked, but where do you get your story ideas? A few times I've been inspired by dreams.

Other articles you might like:

- 6 Tips On How To Read Critically
- How To Create A Press Kit
- Chuck Wendig On Fairy Dross And Pegasus Dreams

Photo credit: "bloodgate fire" by under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, September 16

Neil Gaiman's Hell: A Blank Sheet Of Paper

Neil Gaiman's Hell: A Blank Sheet Of Paper

When I researched my blog post, How Do Writers Get Their Ideas?, I came across this quotation. I didn't use it for my Idea post but it was too delightful to keep to myself.

Neil Gaiman:
My idea of hell is a blank sheet of paper. Or a blank screen. And me, staring at it, unable to think of a single thing worth saying, a single character that people could believe in, a single story that hasn't been told before.

Staring at a blank sheet of paper.

From: Where do you get your ideas?.

Other articles you might like:
- Stephen King: How His Novel "Carrie" Changed His Life
- Harper Voyager Open To Unagented Submissions For 2 Weeks
- Writing Resources

Photo credit: Kyle Cassidy

Friday, September 14

How Do Writers Get Their Ideas? Neil Gaiman, Seth Godin & Stephen King

How Do Writers Get Their Ideas? Neil Gaiman, Seth Godin & Stephen King

Have you ever woken up with a question on your mind? This morning I woke up wondering: How do writers get their ideas?

So I Googled it. (This amuses me endlessly. Did I mediate on the quesiton or ask friends? No. I Googled. Nothing wrong with that, but it is incredible the extent to which a technology--the internet & Google--has changed my life over the course of a decade.)

Here's what Seth Godin has to say:
- Ideas occur when dissimilar universes collide
- Ideas often strive to meet expectations. If people expect them to appear, they do
- Ideas come out of the corner of the eye, or in the shower, when we're not trying
To read the rest of Seth's ruminations, click here: Where do ideas come from?

My ideas seem to hide in the shower, ready to pounce the moment I've gotten my hands wet and there's no paper in sight. But that's okay. I love their mischievousness.

Here's how Neil Gaiman answered the question for a group of 7-year-olds:
You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.

You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if...?

(What if you woke up with wings? What if your sister turned into a mouse? What if you all found out that your teacher was planning to eat one of you at the end of term - but you didn't know who?)

Another important question is, If only...

(If only real life was like it is in Hollywood musicals. If only I could shrink myself small as a button. If only a ghost would do my homework.)

And then there are the others: I wonder... ('I wonder what she does when she's alone...') and If This Goes On... ('If this goes on telephones are going to start talking to each other, and cut out the middleman...') and Wouldn't it be interesting if... ('Wouldn't it be interesting if the world used to be ruled by cats?')...

Those questions, and others like them, and the questions they, in their turn, pose ('Well, if cats used to rule the world, why don't they any more? And how do they feel about that?') are one of the places ideas come from.

An idea doesn't have to be a plot notion, just a place to begin creating. Plots often generate themselves when one begins to ask oneself questions about whatever the starting point is.

Sometimes an idea is a person ('There's a boy who wants to know about magic'). Sometimes it's a place ('There's a castle at the end of time, which is the only place there is...'). Sometimes it's an image ('A woman, sifting in a dark room filled with empty faces.')

Often ideas come from two things coming together that haven't come together before. ('If a person bitten by a werewolf turns into a wolf what would happen if a goldfish was bitten by a werewolf? What would happen if a chair was bitten by a werewolf?')

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.

And when you've an idea - which is, after all, merely something to hold on to as you begin - what then?

Well, then you write. You put one word after another until it's finished - whatever it is.

Sometimes it won't work, or not in the way you first imagined. Sometimes it doesn't work at all. Sometimes you throw it out and start again.
Neil Gaiman: Where do you get your ideas?

I'll close with a quotation from Stephen King:
I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it's seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question 'What if?' 'What if' is always the key question. ( FAQ)
That nicely brings together what Seth Godin and Neil Gaiman had to say! I love it when things work out. :-)

Other articles you might like:
- The Role Of The Unconscious In Writing
- Writing Resources
- Harper Voyager Open To Unagented Submissions For 2 Weeks

Photo credit: technicolor76

Sunday, August 12

The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling On Ideas And Where They Come From

The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling On Ideas And Where They Come From
Rod Serling

When I was a kid I loved Twilight Zone reruns. There was something about Rod Serling's introduction that sent thrills and chills through me. And that voice!

Brain Pickings has discovered a clip of Searling talking about ideas, what they are and where they come from. It's only a minute long and well worth watching, if only to hear that voice again.

Here's the link: Twilight Zone Creator Rod Serling on Where Good Ideas Come From.

You might also like:
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer
- Writers: In Order To Win We Must Embrace Failure

Photo credit: People Quiz

Sunday, August 21

Seth Godin: If We Imprison Ideas, We Imprison Ourselves

Seth Godin writes, "governments and organizations are lining up to control ideas and the way they spread."

How is this control happening? Seth Godin gives three examples:

1. Nathan Myhrvold: Patent Troll
Myhrvold worked at Microsoft for 13 years, where he founded Microsoft Research in 1991. Intellectual Ventures, it is alleged, accumulates patents not in order to develop products and reward inventors, but with the goal acquiring licensing fees, often using shell companies.

Technology companies pay Intellectual Ventures fees ranging “from tens of thousands to the millions and millions of dollars … to buy themselves insurance that protects them from being sued by any harmful, malevolent outsiders,” says venture capitalist Chris Sacca.
There’s an implication in IV’s pitch, Sacca says: If you don’t join us, who knows what’ll happen? He says it reminds him of “a mafia-style shakedown, where someone comes in the front door of your building and says, ‘It would be a shame if this place burnt down. I know the neighborhood really well and I can make sure that doesn’t happen.’ “
2. BART: 1st Amendment issues mount over cell shutdown
In 1967, the California Supreme Court ruled that a city couldn't prohibit nondisruptive political activity inside a railroad station.

That was before cellular phones were invented and before the first BART train rolled down the tracks. But it's a precedent the transit agency may have to confront as it defends its decision to cut off cell service at the site of an expected trackside protest last Thursday, and its long-standing ban on "expressive activities" inside the fare gates.

BART says it might pull the plug on phone service again this afternoon to counter plans for a 5 p.m. demonstration at Civic Center Station in San Francisco, where a transit police officer fatally shot a knife-wielding man July 3.

The legality of such a decision may soon arrive in court.

"This is new territory in the United States," said Gene Pilicinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. Although courts haven't addressed a government cell phone shut-off, he said, "historically we have kept our hands off free expression. ... The government has a very high ladder to climb." [Read more here.]
3. How the Legal Fight Over 'Y.M.C.A.' Could Change the Music Industry (Analysis)

Does an artist have the right to terminate copyright?
In 1976, the U.S. Congress lengthened the copyright term, but as a fig leaf to artists who had created works at the early stage of their careers but handed their rights over without much bargaining power, legislators thought it wise to give artists another bite of the apple. So they allowed artists to enjoy the benefits of the latter stages of a copyright term by terminating a copyright grant.

However, in doing so, artists need to adhere to a strict protocol, including sending out precise termination notices during a short few-year window. Artists are allowed to terminate a copyright grant 35 years after first publishing, and since the Copyright Act amendments went into effect in 1978, it means that 2013 is the first year where musicians such as Bruce Springsteen and Victor Willis can effectuate a termination. Since these notices have to go out in advance, it also means that these artists are now under the clock to send out their termination notice or forfeit the right for the foreseeable future. [Read the rest here.]
What should we do about these cases? Wyhat can we do?

A good first step would be reading the rest of Seth Godin's article.