Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ideas That are Ripe for the Picking

I mentioned in a previous post about inspiration that you can find story ideas everywhere. Now in the last week or so, I’ve had to come up with quite a few different ideas for flash fiction, and I found it pretty difficult to get ideas.
But I tried and tried, looking for and trying out different methods.
One that worked fairly well was a random word generator. (I used the one on this site) You start off with a word. Then you expand.
For example, let’s say your word was volcano. From volcano, you start expanding. What makes the volcano different? It is about to erupt. Who will be affected by the volcano’s eruption? A farmer.
Now you have a situation and a character. Now you can really begin. You can easily create a plot from this. The farmer wants to save himself and his family, but his farm had been given down for generations and he doesn’t want to lose it. There you have internal and external conflict.
This method can work well if you ask the right questions. Also feel free to branch into different ideas. I split into a new column (on a paper) every time there is a different answer for a question and then follow the one I like the most. If I hit a dead end, I return to the previous fork.
Another method is this. Walk around. Look at everything, taking in all the information you can. This would work especially well if you go somewhere spacious with many people and objects. Every time you see an object or an aspect of the object, you think. What could happen? How could this be different? Who could this affect? How would people react?
Let’s say you see a shopping trolley lying on its side beside a parked car. Normally, this would not be very odd, but through inspection, it can lead to something. Why is it beside a car? Someone was packing in groceries. Why is it lying on its side? Someone bumped it over in a struggle. Why is it beside an empty car? Because the owner of both the car and the trolley was kidnapped. And so on.
When I first tried this, it came a bit hard, but the more I do it, the easier it seems to come. Some ideas lead nowhere, but others evolve into a giant story that overwhelms me in awesomeness.
Look around and see. Ideas are floating around everywhere, you just have to take them.

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