Where do writers go to find their story idea generators? Sometimes it’s as easy as looking outside.
People always ask where novelists get their ideas for their new books. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can’t walk into the superstore and find an aisle of story idea generators anywhere, but finding something to write about isn’t all that hard either. The reality is, many of the best ideas, as in comedy, come from real life. I was reminded of this this past week as I watched the weather.
Things are finally beginning to get back to normal here in Western New York. The last week has really been a tale of a schizophrenic city (or at least one that has multiple personalities). For those of you who haven’t seen the news about the weather here, last week parts of the area got dumped on- to the tune of 6 feet of snow. The band of lake effect snow responsible for this was only about twenty miles wide, so at the same time these areas were getting blasted, areas only a few miles away had sun and clear skies.
The snow shut down the areas directly around the city of Buffalo and several of surrounding communities southward for basically the past week. I would say that it also provided some ample time to do some thinking.
What was I thinking about? As a writer, I love to place my protagonists into difficult positions. So, as I watched the events thirty miles away, I kept asking myself “What if….” Once I had posed that question, I had to think about the answer. Let me give some examples:
1. What if you were buried in your car for more than a day? How would you survive? What would you have to do to keep yourself focused and calm? What regrets do you have and what would you want to change in your life? Would you rededicate yourself to your personal relationships or some specific cause?
2. What if your wife went into labor during the most severe storm of the decade/century? Who would you call? What actions would you take? What would you do if emergency vehicles couldn’t get to you?
3. What if you went to let your dog out and discovered the snow was taller than your door? How would you feel? What if you were claustrophobic? How would you get out? Would you risk tunneling or climbing out a second story window?
When we think about these kinds of questions, it should be fairly obvious that for each question posed, there are multiple points of view and each would tell a specific story. As a writer, my job is to tell the most interesting story. So I need to think about the various scenarios in each case, and decide what factors make the story most interesting or challenging.
Ideas for new stories are only as far away as your local newscast. Watch each story and ask yourself a few questions and look for the one that piques your interest the most.
By the way, the above examples all came from events that were reported in the local news. There were drivers that were trapped in their cars for as long as thirty-six hours, a baby was born at a fire station (luckily two of the stranded motorist who had taken shelter there were nurses!) and there are pictures of doors being opened to a wall of snow. All it takes is for us to let our imagination out of the box, and answer the question, what if…