Turns Out, Story Ideas are Everywhere

Monday, August 22, 2022

In all honesty, I didn't mean to start noticing story ideas so much lately. I've been in kind of a slump the last few weeks. Freelance work has gotten quiet. The summer heat hovers around the mid to upper 90s pretty consistently. Work is really busy. Rumors of student loans starting up again are in the air Plus, this week I've also been dealing with a sinus infection. 

So, being in a creative mindset feels unlikely to me.

Until I began noticing things.

It started out with some of my email newsletters. In one newsletter I received, Atlas Obscura talked about a family living in a library. In another, they talked about whether silence is to blame for "prairie madness."

Huh, I thought, sending it to my digital folder of story ideas. I lingered over the idea of writing a character who lived in a library or potentially writing about silence or a certain noise that makes someone go mad.

Well, nothing has come of either idea yet but since then ideas have begun to populate for me.
I read another article about businesses starting a sign war with each other that went viral. It reminded me of a short story of mine set in a grocery store in the middle of a heatwave and made a note to myself to use this same setting later on for a possible sign war-themed story.

Meanwhile, in the midst of lingering hot days and sweltering evenings in the humid upper 80s (sadly, yes, I'm in Oregon and our summers lately suck), I've been "traveling" around the world with Google Earth and imagining who would live in areas that are not even close to being a "tourist" spot. What would this person's life be? What brought them there? Are they stuck or happy?

And the ideas haven't stopped.

Yesterday I saw a strange "never have I ever" list of things none of us likely will have ever done and shared it on Facebook realizing all of these points listed could be great plot lines for a bizarre story. 

This morning I saw a black and white photo of a woman riding a white horse, dressed quite nicely but looking really awkward as if she was in some sort of circus performance or children's program she didn't want to be involved in. Except there she was, involved, and trying to smile her way through it. And I saved it.

The thing is I have been in a long dry spell when it comes to new ideas, and haven't really bothered myself to be bothered by it. Instead, I plug along with what I have written (and there's plenty of that) and just accept I am where I need to be with my writing. 

However, lately, all these ideas are coming to me. It's so strange. 

So, I have come to realize that story ideas are really everywhere. I think it all starts with the question we all know and love: what if? And more than that, look beyond the initial surface level of things. We read the news but do we look at it? Do we pay attention to the word choice? Do we see a headline that just doesn't read like the writer meant it to? Do we see a photo that doesn't make sense? 

I think the biggest part of generating story ideas is taking everything out of context. Splinter things apart like a puzzle you are undoing and take the pieces you think seem interesting. Grab those first lines and quotes and random word choices. Save those photos that seem weird and articles that are a little hard to believe.

Because really, story ideas are everywhere. We just have to start paying attention.


Beverley Baird said...

Loved your post. We really have to be open for whatever comes our way. Thanks for sharing - great insight.

Renee Roberson said...

Nicole--I'm sure this comes as no shock to you, but I get a lot of ideas from true crime shows! I think this post is a sign that you are feeling more creatively inspired. Ideas are all around us, but when we are anxious and suffering from burnout I think it's harder for us to notice them. Thank you for sharing these with us!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Nicole ~ Your idea about the character who lives in the library reminds me of the Portlandia episode where that guy was playing hide-n-seek and lived in the library for years. Lol! Years ago, I started to write a story about a landlord who evicted a guy, but instead of him leaving, he burrowed into the house's walls and gaslit the new tenants by moving all their stuff around. Maybe you could write about a disgruntled library employee who was fired and then hid in the stacks, but the constant library silence caused prairie madness. :)

One exercise is to write down all your ideas on slips of paper and put them in a hat. Pull one out and start writing. Then pull out another and add that plot point. It sounds like you're in the creative zone! Yes, story ideas are everywhere. Since I write creative nonfiction, I get my ideas from reading essays and prompts. News stories, true crime, serial killers, horror, and secret societies are also interesting and I try to find a way to deepen my memoir type writing by adding another layer to it. I admit, moving and this heat have also left me a bit drained and I haven't written in a while, but I'm ready to get back to it! Cheers to new work and possibilities. Write on. :)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Like you, I go through dry spells where new ideas are concerned. And then along comes one idea after another.

Good luck with your growing collection!

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