Each summer we’ve delved into one particular aspect of writing–story prompts, a tour of author blogs, basics of self-publishing.
This summer let’s look at where story ideas come from.
This is one of the questions most often put to writers by people who don’t write. For people who DO write, it’s almost unnecessary to ask. I’ve always had so many characters carrying on conversations in my imagination that letting them have their say on paper is better than counseling. At this point, it seems doubtful that I’ll ever run out of story ideas.
We should probably acknowledge, though, that not all stories are created equal. I’ve had many notions that seemed brilliant at first glimmer, but which fizzled after the first three or four chapters. There’s just not enough there, at least at the present, to write a book about.
So…it wouldn’t be a bad idea to generate more ideas–just in case I need them.
Since I write historicals, one of my favorite places to gather the seeds for future plots is stories from my family’s past. You know the ones:
The stories that get told at every family gathering because they’re just so wonderful.
The stories your parents told to teach you a lesson from someone else’s experience.
The stories your grandma or grandpa confided to you that one time when you were alone–something that impressed them so deeply they never forgot.
Of course, it’s almost never a good idea to base your plot literally on recognizable people. Discretion demands that you change the characters, names, settings, or circumstances to protect both the guilty and the innocent. But this summer as you trek off to family reunions or to visit relatives, keep your ears open! If a story has earned its place as a family favorite, it might appeal to other people as well.