Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where to Look For Ideas for Short Stories and Novels

Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.  The newspaper and television are both good places to find mystery plots or those involving intrigue and scandal.  A real life story about a missing person or a famous figure involved in a love triangle can inspire an exciting work of fiction.  However, if you get ideas from a news source, it is best to use this only as a starting point for your work.  Never use real names and always slightly change the events and the setting. 

History and Nonfiction Books

 History books are also a good source for ideas.  Personal accounts and journals such as those of people traveling out west on a covered wagon will help provide a good general background for a certain time era and give you a "feeling" for the people who lived in that time.  Books about local legends and ghost stories can also inspire great ideas for fiction. 


While riding a bus late at night, I heard one drunk say sadly to another, “You know, you never forget your first love.” He was obviously thinking back to a happier time, a broken romance, filled with the bittersweet regret. What a great beginning  for a novel or short story!

Drawing from Your Own Past

In the words of Frank McCourt, “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood; the happy childhood is hardly worth your while…” If you've made it to adulthood, you probably have enough material to write about for the rest of your life.

Start your own X-Files

Get in the habit of collecting notes and then putting them in a computer file. (There are a lot of interesting things in “Vickie’s X-Files” and Loretta's too, some which will be made into novels and short stories, others that probably never will.) This is the place where incomplete stories dwell. Thoughts incubate. Sometimes, years later, you may find the perfect ending to a story idea you had started years ago. When you feel depleted, you will always have a backlog of random thoughts, character sketches, and plot ideas for inspiration.

Check back next month for Tips on how to turn those great ideas you've found into stories.