7 Ways to Help Generate More Story Ideas

Hello Fiction Lovers!

I’ve been looking through some of my old writing lately and that got me thinking about I–and others–come up with different story ideas. Of course there is no absolute way to come up with a new idea that you’ll want to write, but trying out these different things can give you a push in the right direction if you’re stuck. They can also just be nice to do as ways to get the muse whispering.

  1. Read (and possibly write) story prompts. Reading other people’s ideas and making them your own can be very fulfilling and open your eyes to things you never would have thought on your own.
  2. Listen to music. If you want to write a story with a certain tone, listen to music with that tone whether it’s calming or rage filled or anything in between. Lyrics can also work like story prompts to help you think of things you wouldn’t have thought of.
  3. Move to some place new. If you always write in a chair move to the floor or try to write standing. If you always write inside take a few hours and spend time in a nearby park. Always write at home? Try writing at a coffee shop.
  4. Read. Reading others’ work can help you spark some ideas of your own (just make sure you don’t plagiarize because that’s pretty uncool). Also, sometimes it can be good to step away from writing just for a bit and relax with a good book.
  5. Have an odd conversation. Ask a friend/family member/significant other/stranger what they would do if they suddenly gained an ability or magic. What if they could become immortal but could only eat oranges and chocolate? How would they react if the floor really did turn into lava?
  6. Try something new. Your characters can probably do all sorts of things you can’t do. I know mine can. You don’t have to take up the art of sword fencing or learn an ancient language, but you could try making a new recipe or trying out a new hobby. Sometimes doing something new can help make your brain make connections between ideas that were missing before.
  7. Describe a scene/character down to the very last detail. Sometimes you just have to get to know your characters/world better in order to have the story revealed to you. This can also just help with character depth and worldbuilding in general.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know if you have any questions and feel free to post your thoughts–or any other suggestions you might have–in the comments.

Advertisements

POV: A Spectrum

Hello Fiction Lovers!

This week I thought I’d talk about point of view (POV). For those you who don’t know there are three main types of POV: first person, second person, and third person. First person tells the story from the character’s point of view using “I” while second person makes use of “you” and talks directly to the reader, placing them in the story. Third person tells the story from an outside perspective and is more likely to use “they” and/or name the characters outside of dialogue.

Most people tend to think that first person is the most intimate between reader and character while third person is the most distant, and second person is often ignored. I used to belong to that group until recently when a teacher pointed out and showed how there is actually a range of distance between reader and character that can occur in any of the POVs. A character in first person could just list off the things that were happening and leave it to the reader to interpret their importance, or third person you could delve into a character’s mind and know them even better than the character knows. Both can be interesting if done right and, of course, there is all the space to mix and match in between the two extremes or do the opposites of the examples.

Distance is not decided by the POV, but rather how much insight we are allowed to see into the characters. Is it just action after action without any adjectives to tell us the character’s take on events–like a movie where we have rely on what we see and hear to understand what’s happening? Or do we, as readers, get to know everything the character knows with all their biases and beliefs put forth for us to shift through and understand? Neither way is better than the other, and both can be useful depending on what story–not to mention character–you are trying to tell.

Nor should we just continue to ignore second person. Yes, I will admit that the POV can make it hard to vary up the start of the sentences and it can be hard to keep up for longer pieces, but there are stories that could have more impact if told in second person. It can be done right and well. It can also be a good exercise if you like you’re writing in rote and need to do something different from what you’re used to.

So please put more thought into POV than just first person=intimate and third person=distant because there is more to POV than that, and understanding that point can help you find out the best POV and distance on the spectrum for your story. Also, branching out from what you are used to is a good way to get better at writing–that way you can learn more about what works for you and what doesn’t.

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a good week! Please let me know if you have any questions and feel free to post any thoughts you have about POV in the comments.

Importance of Setting

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Today I thought I’d talk about something that came up in one of my literature classes. We were discussing Winter in the Blood by James Welch. If you’re interested it’s a literary fiction book about a Native American dealing with a feeling of disconnection and his life on a ranch–or so far as I can tell having read the first third of the book. However, in class we spoke about an even smaller section–the opening scene–for the whole 50 minutes. Most of what we talked about had to do with the importance of place, and how the setting and it’s tone that first scene sets up is integral to the story.

I won’t regurgitate what was said in class specifically about the book because I don’t know how many of you are familiar with it, but the essence of what was said applies to any story, I think.

  1. Setting impacts a story and shapes it. (If you want to set a tone of death and despair you aren’t very likely to set the story in a verdant valley full of bunnies, are you?)
  2. It gives insights into the character(s) based on what they notice. (Are they the type of person to know the exact breed of horse with them or are they more interested in the wind and the sounds it’s making? What type of tone do their descriptions evoke?)
  3. Sense of place. (Does the character feel connected to the area around them or do they feel out of place? Separate?)

The setting will impact the characters and how they act as well as how the story plays out. The impact comes as much from logistical things–weather, what’s physically there–as from the tone it sets and other more abstract things that can get attached to it. That’s why it’s important that the reader can picture the setting in their mind instead of just a bunch of white space. Setting grounds a story and gives it a foundation to work from. It can raise the stakes in a fight or otherwise, provide context, give the readers something to connect to, and create interest by giving the characters something to interact with. Setting isn’t just a backdrop, and if you treat as such you’ll be missing out on something that could greatly help your story gain meaning and interest.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! I hope you all have a fun week!

 

Story Prompt Benefits

Hello Fiction Lovers!

First of all, I would like to apologize for not getting this (and the story prompt) posted yesterday. Things got a little hectic and I somehow managed to forget it was Monday.

This week I wanted to talk about the benefits of story prompts/writing prompts since I post them every week. There are, of course, the obvious benefits of having an idea to write from when you seem to can’t think of anything yourself and to help get the writing flowing when your muse is being particularly uncooperative. The nice thing about story prompts is that they can prompt your own ideas as well. You don’t have to take every prompt at face value, but can change it if it sparks a different idea (i.e. if the MC of prompt is a female you could change it to a male or lizard-person that doesn’t have a set gender).

Another thing story prompts can help with is getting to you writing things outside your comfort zone, trying something new. I’ve writing stories I never would have thought of writing because of story prompts and now I’m glad I wrote them. It helped broaden my understanding of the situations and types of characters the story prompts promoted. Perhaps they will do the same for you.

A last benefit to story prompts is that they can be fun and without the pressure of writing a larger work. Sure, they can develop into that but I don’t think I’ve ever looked for a story prompt with the intent to turn it into a novel. They can help remind you that writing is fun when you when you need to take a break from your work in progress because of a difficult scene, but still want to write.

So I do suggest using a story prompt every now and then, and making it your own. No one every seems to come up with the same story despite using the same prompt and I always think that’s wonderful and amazing. Perhaps, too, you’ll get a new interesting character, scene, or plot line to expand upon or use in another work.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything you think I missed. Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a fun time reading and writing!

A Way to Keep Writing

Hello Fiction Lovers!

For those of you who are writers like me I thought it would be good to share how I battle writer’s block every week. I think of myself as a fairly busy person, especially during the school year, between classes, a part-time job, clubs, studying, and keeping in contact with friends and family as well as having this blog. There would be a lot of times when I would use that busyness as an excuse not to write because I was too tired, should interact with people, eat regular meals–in short, do  actual things, things that would garner immediate results. But writing is an actual thing and does garner actual results such as being closer to finishing the manuscript I’m working on. I just had to accept the fact that I needed to put the effort in to do the thing I loved doing, even when it was difficult and writer’s block was staring me in the face.

So I started writing story sections and sending them out every week to friends and family who would be willing to read them. Most people say not to share what you are currently writing with others but, for me, doing so gave me the kick I needed to start writing regularly. I knew I had to send something out every week because they were expecting to receive a story section. There was no room for excuses: either I sent one out or I didn’t. An added bonus was that for those readers who have the time and are willing I also get feedback as I’m writing which helps me know what I need to work on as I write (another thing I know people advise against, but it means instead of having to edit and overhaul something once I finish the whole manuscript I can do it right then and keep having it fixed). Now I aim for at least 2,000 words a week and send out questions about each section for those readers who want to answer. They aren’t really beta readers but I have found their advice does help as well as simply being accountable to send out the story section. Since I’ve started doing this I think I’ve only missed sending out the story sections twice in almost a year.

If following the traditional advice hasn’t been working for you feel free to try this out or do something completely different. One thing that doing the story sections has reminded me of is that while the traditional advice can be helpful, it doesn’t work for everyone, and if it doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to follow it. They aren’t rules, only guidelines.

Please let me know if you have any questions and feel free to comment below. If anyone would like to receive the story sections let me know and I can get it arranged. I hope you all have a good week and thanks for reading!

Conflicting Emotions

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Lately, I’ve been reading the Last Herald-Mage series by Mercedes Lackey (whose interesting books I would recommend by the way) and her writing and characters have reminded me that characters–like real-life people–can have conflicting emotions. Sometimes when I’m writing I’m so focused on what the character is supposed to feel or how they are going to react that I find I forget that they can conflicting emotions. Having conflicting emotions can make them feel more like actual people and tie in other parts of the story to the scene you’re writing. No scene or dialogue is in a vacuum which means the emotions driving that scene or dialogue can’t be located in one either. People feel lots of different things at once about different things and more than likely they will feel those things at the same time.

Having conflicting emotions can also help with character development and motivation. It can help the reader know what is more important to the character based on what they are having conflicting feels about and what emotion they end up acting upon. A character who really wants a book but won’t go get it because they are afraid of the adult standing near it, and a character who really wants a book but doesn’t get it because they are worried about their financial situation are two very different people. The result is the same, but emotional impact and knowledge of the character is very different. Also, if the reader is told the character wants a book but doesn’t end up getting one without another emotional reason as to why the scene feels unfinished, lackluster, or confusing.

You don’t have to use conflicting emotions all the time but making use of them can make your story feel more cohesive and flow better. It can also break up the monotony of a character only being driven by one emotion–something that becomes unrealistic quickly and that becomes boring. Conflicting emotions can also point to internal vs external conflicts and pressures in the story.

I hope this post helped and let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to post your thoughts or anything you think I missed in the comments. I hope you all have a good week!