How Do You Start a Story?
The simple answer – with an idea. If you sit and wait for a revoluntary idea, you may find yourself immobile for a long time.
Ideas are everywhere if you only look for them. It may come from a place you’ve visited or a curious person you’ve seen. The place may only be your background or in a scene; the person becomes a character. Write it down. Many times, truth is stranger than fiction.
If you’re an avid writer, you have a notebook handy wherever you are. Using the NOTES app on your phone or tablet works just as well. If you don’t have time to write it down, record an audio note on your phone. Some authors prefer to send themselves an email as a reminder. The important thing is to keep notes. Ideas may come in spurts when you’re least expecting them.
Using True Life Stories
Creating a story often comes from true facts – whether to you or to others. W.C. Fields needed money back in 1940. Feeling like a down and out sucker, poor and broke, he found a wadded-up grocery bill in his pocket. On the back, he scribbled an idea for a story and titled it “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.” He eventually sold the idea to Universal Studios for $25,000. The plot was a down-and-out man who sold an outrageous story to a movie studio and made millions. He had the starring role – and made millions.
One of the characters in my second YA novel, Love Looks Back, was a woman I saw on a cruise. Skinny as a pencil, her ratted hair swooped up on top of her head bobbed back and forth when she walked. Her wire-framed glasses were perched low upon her beak, so her tiny beady eyes peered over the frame when she looked at you. To top it off, her voice was shrill and squeaky; everyone sat up straight when she spoke. Needless to say, I jotted it in my notebook and even drew a sketch so I’d remember her (as if I’d forget). She became the stern headmaster in an orphanage where my characters ended up when no one wanted them.
Many of my stories have come from vivid dreams. My novel, RUNAWAY, started out as a dream. But if I don’t get up in the middle of the night to write my idea down, it escapes as surely as the morning fog.
Look for Clues
Ideas for stories are everyhwere. Look at the evening news on television or online. Read accounts of harrowing incidences and imagine how you could write a story from facts given. My flash fiction story, “Fear in the Fog” is based on true facts.
Aaron Sorkin, writer of A Few Good Men, jotted his idea on a napkin while in a restaurant after hearing a story of naval abuse from his sister who worked with JAG.
Another writer colleague of mine wrote his novel, A Pane of Glass, based on a father’s thoughts and actions after his daughter was kidnapped, molested, and killed.
Search for weird, strange, or bizarre news. Guaranteed, you will find fresh new ideas to write stories of your own.
Use of prompts is not cheating when it comes to writing. It actually spurs your thinking juices into the creative mode. There are many places online for writing prompts, both as phrases or picture prompts. Pinterest has unique picture prompts. Look for “Story Starters.” The story mentioned above, “Fear in the Fog” was prompted from the perspective of this suspension footbridge.
Think of your own childhood as prompts. Write about a time you were alone and afraid. Write about who affected or formed your life most during childhood? Think about your favorite holiday or season — why is it your favorite? Think of a memory of you and your best friend did together. How can these ideas be formed into a story?
Take a walk through a graveyard. Look at obituaries. Search your own ancestry – this makes great historical fiction. The list is endless.
If you want some help with characters, places, plot – check out the STORY GENERATOR.
Sometimes, you may have the idea, but the rest of the story refuses to come. What then?
- Chew on it.
- Let it rest overnight.
- Go for a run.
- Do something different for a while.
- Turn it around in your mind.
- Ask what if…?
- Weird as it sounds, ask your character what they’d do. (They often answer).
There is no such thing as writers’ block in my mind. The ideas are so endless that I have multiple notebooks filled with story and book ideas. It may only be a snippet of an idea right now, but if I write down the basic gest of the story or a simple outline, the rest will come. Search for “writing prompts” online, and you’ll find many to spark your thinker.
Out of the blue, another idea pops into your brain, and somehow it comes together. It’s often amazing to me how it works.
That’s the fun of writing!
How have ideas come to you? Comment, please!