Isn’t it always the way? You sit down at the computer, a rare and precious hour at your disposal, and you go blank. You have no ideas to write about and, if you think back, you haven’t had any ideas for quite a while.
Don’t worry, it happens. Sometimes you’re overwhelmed with stories to write and other times you draw a blank. Not to worry. These five tips are designed to get your mojo flowing in no time.
1. People watch
This is one of my favorite things to do when I’m in a new place. I sit and watch people interact with either their surrounding or other people. A popular thing I do on my Twitter account is @Starbucks watch. I literally will go to a Starbucks, sit down with my white chocolate mocha, and tweet about the people inside. Soon, I’m creating stories about them — who’s on a date, who’s breaking up, who’s arguing, who’s having a good day or a bad one. Just by watching people, stories will start to jump out at you.
I’ve often harped on the notion that writers can not be writers unless they read. This is especially important when it comes to finding story ideas. It’s not that you are reading to re-interpret the piece that you are reading, it’s that you’re using the words to help jostle an idea. Sometimes while reading our brain does weird things, it thinks on its own and a story pops in from the ether. Thank the Muse and get writing!
This is a classic because it works. There have been many a time where I’ve used prompts to get me going or to start a new story. There are a million ways to do prompts — from apps to download on your phone or tablet to books filled with them. Ironically, today Writer’s Digest has an article on prompts on their front page.
As far as books, I’m a fan of The Pocket Muse. This is a great book filled with interesting prompts. I’ve tried a couple of these prompts with my creative writing students and they have been extremely helpful. As you can see there are TONS of prompt books out there but how to chose which one? Think of a prompt book as an investment in future stories. It should be one that will challenge you, keep you interested, and ask you to think differently. You want a prompt book that will keep you on your toes and excited.
4. What’s in
your their wallets?
This is one of my favorite exercises I’ve done with my creative writing classes. Take a wallet or a purse (you can use what’s around the house or what you find) and fill it with stuff — credit cards, money, lipstick, etc. That is the purse/wallet of your character. Who are they? What is their life like? What’s their biggest worry? What do they want the most? That will jump start your brain down the trail of an amazing story. For the best effect, have someone else prepare the wallet/purse for you.
Now, I am partial to reading the newspaper since I am a working journalist, however, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. My favorite place to dig for stories is the crime page or the blotter. There, you can read about the latest crimes — burglaries, homicides, etc. Soon you’ll see an entry that will peak your interest. How did the person do that crime? How are the police stumped/ how did they catch them? Asking these questions lead to searching for answers which lead to a story.
My other favorite place in the newspaper to look for story ideas is the world/nation page. That’ll get your mind moving quickly.
As you can see, there are stories everywhere. You just have to look for them. It could be your neighbor walking his dog or the latest big trial in your area. All you need is just a curious mind to ask the questions that will make you go down the rabbit hole.
What are your favorite ways to find stories?