Published Author, Professional Storyteller & Writer, and Educator
Published Author, Professional Storyteller & Writer, and Educator
Published Author, Professional Storyteller & Writer, and Educator

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The Right Story for You to Write

Many adults in my writing classes come because they have a strong desire to write, but they haven't a clue as to what to write, or where to find ideas for stories. The non-fictional realm seems to be a little easier - find a subject to write about, research it, and put your findings down in writing. Here, though, the trick is to write creatively, as opposed to "textbook" style.

Writing fiction is a little tougher, with many genres to choose from - ranging from animal stories, to science fiction, and everything in between. So, where do the ideas come from? In my workshop, Get the Creative Juices Flowing, I use a variety of activities that act as springboards for stories, which I'll now share with you.

1. OBJECTS - Go through the house and select an object - kitchen tool, souvenir, gift - anything. Turn it over and view it from every aspect. Think outside the box - ask yourself, "What could this be" (Ignore what it really is.) Once you think of a possible use, expand your thinking to create a story - determine a character(s) who might be involved, a series of events that would occur (plot), where this story could take place (setting) and finally, how the story might end. This will give you a story line from which to work.

2. JEWELRY - Hold a piece of jewelry (ring, necklace, bracelet, earrings, watch, etc.) in your hand and study it. Incidentally, ornate/junk jewelry can give way to great story lines. Again, think outside of the box, and not the reality of the piece of jewelry. Ask yourself questions such as: Who might have owned this? How did it fall into my hands? What happened to it? Does it have any magical powers, and if so, what? Create your characters, setting, events and ending for your story.

3. PICTURES - Create a file of pictures from calendars, greeting cards, magazines, newspapers, and other picture sources (paintings, online, photographs). Study the picture - every detail - facial expressions, surroundings, items in the picture, people and what they're doing, and so on. Create your story line based on what you see, plus adding "back story". Ask yourself questions: What is going on? Why is this happening? How did it happen? What might have happened before this? What will they do next? Where will they go? You'll probably notice that after you've asked and answered one question, another question will surface based on your first answer. Keep going with your own private question/answer session until you see a story unfold.

4. NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES - Articles in newspapers or magazines often provide a good basis for a story, which you can embellish to create a different (more vibrant) story. These stories are usually basic facts - the who, what, when, where, why and how aspects of the story. Provide the details - the story behind the story, and move into the future working on what can/will happen. Create a new name for your character, and perhaps a different setting. Now the story will be yours.

5. HEADLINES - Looking at a headline can give rise to a good story. There are no details, so it's up to you to create them. Using a headline such as this: Runaway Returned to Her Home, ask yourself questions: Who was the runaway? How old was she? Why did she run away? Who found her? Where was she found? What happened when she returned home? How long had she been gone? And so on. Giving the girl a name, creating events, creating dialogue in the story, could make this an exciting, powerful story.

6. REAL LIFE STORIES - Based on your personal anecdotes, and events that happened to people you know, create a story. Again, you'll get the basic story, which you will have to embellish with details, dialogue, more events, additional characters, and settings.

Try some of these activities and see if story ideas pop into your head. Begin to collect junk jewelry, pictures, articles, headlines, and notes on stories you've heard. Keep your collection in files or boxes. Pull them out when you need a jump-start. Ask yourself questions about them, and as you answer your own questions, let your creative juices flow and watch your story unfold. When you have your story line, start writing it down. Enjoy seeing your story develop as new thoughts and ideas enter your mind.

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