Topic Twists Or How To Generate A List Of Story Ideas

Sunday, February 22, 2015
Whether you're a journalist or a fiction writer, you may rely on a brainstorming session to generate an idea list for an article or a plot twist.

Where should you start? Here's a technique I use every Wednesday, once the weekly where I serve as managing editor goes to print.

First, I look at the community calendar and see what's coming up in the next two weeks. Sometimes, I jot down specific events. Other times, I write a generalized tag - like basketball - that can be used in one of the upcoming steps.

Then, I take a look at holidays, especially those that are unique to a special time period. For instance, did you know that National Pancake Week wraps up today? If there's something relatable to my coverage area, I write it down.

Next, I list subtopics for each item, using the following demographics to develop a specific idea:

  • woman's issue
  • man's issue
  • kid's/teen issue
  • a twist
  • outlandish idea
  • evergreen idea
Let's use the basketball idea. My list might resemble this:

  • woman's issue: check with area schools about girls' basketball participation numbers since participation is declining nationally
  • man's issue: local town teams provide physical fitness
  • kid's/teen issue: local team raised over $1,000 for Healthy Heart Month
  • a twist: how local schools use social media to promote sports updates
  • outlandish idea: local basketball players - Who would you beat in the latest NBA video game?
  • evergreen idea: district basketball pairings released.
Right there I have at least six possible articles. While some may seem silly and will never make it to the paper, others are worth pursuing.

Generating a topic list allows you to think outside the box, to take a single word and twist and bend it to meet the needs of your publisher or editor.

And most important, the ideas work.

By LuAnn Schindler


Margo Dill said...

LuAnn: This is a great example. Thanks for sharing it with us. Sometimes outlandish ideas can make it into your fiction then, too. :)

Renee Roberson said...

This is a great list, LuAnn. Thanks for sharing! I'm going to tweak this list and use it from here on out when I'm planning editorial for the parenting magazine I work for.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Love this list so much that I'll be blogging about it next week! I'm going to use it to brainstorm post-book "extras."

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan said...

I love this, too! I think it offers writers of all genres some excellent tips!

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