If you’re anything like me, sometimes you’re full of story ideas. Some of them are fantastic and some of them are dreadful. Most will never see the light of day.
But sometimes you’re not full of ideas. Sometimes you want to start something new, to work on something different, and you draw a blank. There’s nothing there. Not even a seed.
While that hasn’t happened to me recently, it has happened in the past, more than once. During my MA in Creative Writing programme, it happened a lot. Mostly when I was trying to write short stories, but occasionally otherwise. I’m not so good at coming up with ideas when I NEED to – just when I don’t have time for them.
So what do I do when I come up empty?
Look to other people for inspiration.
Troll the adoptables forums on the NaNoWriMo site. Search for plot and title generators. Have a think about books I’ve read that I hadn’t found satisfying and figure out what I’d have done differently. Pay attention to what’s going on around me: the over-the-top argument in Starbucks, the old man and his three dogs in the park everyday, this month’s overplayed pop song.
I’ve never actually used a plot I found through the NaNoWriMo forums or a generator or an argument I’ve overheard. But I have had ideas spawned by these thing – oftentimes I’ll see or hear something and think, ‘Well, no, that won’t work, but if I did this and this and this…’ and a story is born. It’s usually a story that bears no resemblance to its inspiration, but it’s a story nonetheless, and I appreciate the trigger, however ridiculous it may be.
Fortunately I don’t have too much trouble coming up with story ideas nowadays, just trouble finding the time to write them. But I’m always paying attention, because I know someday inspiration won’t come so easily, and I’ll be very unhappy if I’ve let the perfect story pass me by!
Where do you find story ideas when they’re not coming easily?