Now for the eighth instalment in my writing workshop series. I’ve covered the short story ending as well as the opening. I’ve guided you through dialogue and focused on the importance of taking time to do things properly. I’ve also given you a competitions refresher and some general advice on the art of the short story. Last week covered tips on writing humorous pieces and this week helps you with generating ideas:
Inspiring Ideas From The Comfort Of The Couch
Sometimes you can find yourself staring at your computer screen, for what seems like hours, and the ideas just fail to come. Yet, there are ideas all around you – if you’re open to them. What’s more, you don’t even have to move from the comfort of your favourite chair. Cast your eyes around the room and you’ll be surprised at the amount of ideas lurking in your living room.
In many houses, the TV is the focal point of the room and we spend a lot of our relaxation time watching it. Visit your local newsagents and you’ll see a lot of shelf space taken up with TV magazines. Most of these have letters pages so if coverage of a documentary programme has inspired you to take a course, this is just the sort of letter which will stand out. Or if a soap opera’s storyline has touched you or irritated you, write a letter about it and earn yourself some cash.
TV programmes are also an excellent source of ideas. Have you ever watched a TV drama which doesn’t end the way you thought it would? Was your ending better? You can take your ending idea and work it into your own story.
A funny incident on a video clips show may stir a memory of something funny that happened to you. Lots of magazines publish humorous anecdotes.
An historical programme about a time past can start you thinking ‘what if that didn’t happen?’ An alternative history could make an interesting and compelling book.
Photos of loved ones, including the beloved family pet, can often be found on our mantelpieces, windowsills or walls. The women’s weeklies all publish photos of babies, pets, special anniversaries and parties. You may not want to send your precious picture to a magazine but perhaps you could take some new ones or you might have some already stored on your computer, ready to send at the click of a mouse.
Wedding photos, whether it’s our own, a family member’s or friend’s could be amongst the photos on show. Many of them have ideas for articles behind them. Was the wedding cancelled first time round because one of the wedding party was taken ill and rebooked when the person was better? Perhaps that made the day all the more special. One of the women’s weeklies or monthlies would be interested in a true-life story along those lines. The planning of the wedding itself has potential for a wedding magazine; whether it was a wedding with a difference, which deviated from tradition or the magical day took place on a shoestring budget, a wedding magazine is certain to be interested in taking a look at an article about it.
Most of us have been on special holidays, which are captured on camera and displayed in our rooms to remind us of treasured moments, whether it was meeting Mickey Mouse in Disneyland or snorkelling in the Maldives, or jumping out of a plane in Australia. Even if your holiday seems ordinary to you, a magazine may not find it so. A number of the women’s weeklies publish readers’ holiday stories. All sorts of destinations are covered, from Bognor to Borneo. If your holiday involved something a little different e.g. ten bungee jumps in ten different cities or uncovering the lesser-known delights in a particular country, there’s potential for a travel piece for a newspaper or travel publication.
Books and DVDs
Bookshelves and/or DVD racks are commonly found in our living rooms, featuring all manner of titles, e.g. ‘The Grudge’, ‘When Will There Be Good News?’ and ‘Robin Hood’. Think about each title in turn and you should find all sorts of ideas for short stories or even something longer start to come to mind.
Let’s take ‘The Grudge’ to start with. This is a well-known horror movie but your fiction piece doesn’t have to be in the horror genre. You could write a romance, perhaps about a long-term grudge held between two neighbours. How they resolve it and get together is up to you. Or perhaps the title starts you thinking about a crime story where a grudge gets out of hand.
‘When Will There Be Good News?’ is a book by best-selling author, Kate Atkinson featuring the loveable but always in trouble, private investigator, Jackson Brodie but the good news or lack of it doesn’t have to relate to a crime story. What ‘news’ ideas come to mind? Happy news – an engagement, passing an exam, getting the all-clear from the doctor, a missing child found…any of these can be turned into stories. What about bad news? The possibilities are endless and will make for an equally compelling story.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Robin Hood. What about a Robin Hood story with a twist? Maybe it’s the Sheriff of Nottingham who’s the good guy or why can’t Robin be a woman? Re-writing well-known, classic stories can make for very entertaining reads. They’re always popular in small press magazines and a well-known tale will stand out in a competition.
These are just a few examples but from three books/films, several ideas have sprung to mind in a matter of moments.
Most of us have ornaments/treasures/things we collect and display in our main room. Perhaps you have an heirloom that’s been handed down by a much-loved family member or you found a quirky item that took your fancy at a car boot sale. You may not know how much it’s worth. Some of the women’s magazines have slots inviting readers to send in their treasures to find out what they’re worth. Most pay, either for all items printed or for the item worth the most.
Or if you have a special interest in collecting antiques, there are lots of magazines which specialise in antiques and which would be very interested to hear about your collection.
You might be a collector of items other than antiques and have your beloved collection out for all to see whether it’s Russian Dolls, die-cast cars, tea-pots, teddies, thimbles or sporting memorabilia. You could find out a little background information and send it, together with how you first started collecting, to a hobby magazine or a publication that’s all about collecting.
These are only a few ways for generating ideas without having to move a muscle (well, barely a muscle). So take a deep breath and look around your room with your eyes wide open.