As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m now experimenting with short story writing again. Since my fantasy ideas tends to expand too easily into complex stories only suited to longer works, I tend to veer more toward science fiction and horror in shorter fiction. But, especially for science fiction, that can require different wells of ideas. For those of you, like every author does at times, who are facing the blank screen, here are some suggestions of where to mine ideas:
- The News: This can be televised, online, or one of those antiquated forms called a newspaper. Articles can be rich in ideas, especially if a writer starts asking questions about what might have been behind whatever happened in a specific news story. Pick articles that touch you emotionally or snare your imagination, ones that fascinate, make you laugh, or infuriate you.
- Scientific Journals: The great thing about the internet is that so much of this sort of information is easily accessible, especially compared to decades ago. Googling a topic will easily land you loads of sites, but I suggest steering toward more professional avenues for accurate information. On the other hand, lesser known sources might offer unexpected avenues of thought that you could twist into a story too. Much like with news articles, pick topics that interest you. If you have no interest whatsoever in genetic therapy, don’t try to write about it. Your boredom will leak into the story and turn off readers.
- Libraries: Yes, they still exist for those of us, myself sometimes included, who forget there are sources beyond our computers. Libraries have a few advantages over online sources. First, you can walk up and down the aisles, looking at titles and subjects for ideas. It’s much faster than trying to think up every subject you can and googling them. More importantly though, libraries have human beings that can help direct your search and engage with you. Librarians just might lead you down fascinating roads you never would have known to consider yourself.
- People Watch: Eavesdrop at the mall, watch people at the park, “mind your own business” while sneakily observing the busiest aisle at the grocery store. People will say and do all sorts of odd, intriguing, and startling things. People are the heart of stories, and by looking to real ones, you just might find the inspiration you need.
- Distraction: If all else fails, try what has worked for so many writers, distract yourself. Don’t allow yourself to work on coming up with ideas. Do the dishes. Take a shower. Mow the lawn. Paint your house. Muses have an odd tendency to rebel. Just when we give them a vacation, they tend to want to get to work. I don’t know why this is, but I’ve heard many authors complain of the same phenomenon.
- Seek Nature: Take a walk through the woods, have a picnic in the park, go camping. There’s something about getting away from the business of life and reconnecting with the world our ancestors knew that frees the mind. Perhaps it’s the quiet--unless the raccoons are raiding your trash--perhaps the abundance of life, or perhaps it’s something innate to humans, but try it. You just may find it the cure your writer’s block needs.
Where else do you get ideas for stories?