History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Story Ideas

Graffiti reading "Ideas are bulletproof"On Friday at Spocon, I spoke on a panel about story ideas with James C. Glass and Alex Fedyr. We wound up talking about a lot more than just story ideas (like outlining, parts of a story, and the different ways that screenwriters look at novels), but here’s some of what we talked about.

One of the big sources of ideas for all of us was observation–things we saw, heard, or experienced. Whether that’s noticing someone you pass on the street, or experiencing a new culture for the first time, you can find story seeds in what’s around you. I brought up misunderstanding as another interesting place for ideas–whether it’s mishearing a phrase or your brain not being able to properly parse the input it’s given.

We also talked about ideas coming from dreams, with the caveat that those are the ideas that you need to write down immediately, before they slip away.

Another source of ideas was looking at an existing story or other piece of media, and making some sort of change to see what new ideas came out of that. This could be as simple as gender flipping a character from a Shakespearean play or as complicated as changing the setting of an old story into something completely invented.

Finally, we talked about exercises for generating ideas. One of those that I really liked was to make lists of interesting characters, interesting locations, and interesting problems, and then choosing one from each list, either intentionally or randomly. With as much as I love random things, you know which method I’d choose!


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