(New South Wales, Australia)
Question: I struggle to find ideas to write about for my stories. I often look for inspiration but I can't find any. Should I just wait for inspiration to come and bounce the ideas off people? Or should I search for what I want to use?Answer:
Often the best ideas do come unexpectedly by inspiration. But if they aren't coming on their own, there are lots of things you can do to find them.
You might start by asking yourself what kind of stories you really enjoy. You could look at type of protagonist, genre, style, theme, etc.
Then perhaps take some loglines (one or two sentence synopses) of existing stories and play with them.
For instance, let's say you took the basic idea of the movie ET
: a small boy befriends an extraterrestrial who is stranded on earth and helps him send an SOS before government agents can capture him. You might ask yourself questions like...
* What would this be like if I changed the boy into an old man, or a young woman, or a big game hunter etc.?
* What if it wasn't an alien but an escaped prisoner, an illegal immigrant, an enemy soldier, etc.?
* Could I make this into a romance - perhaps between the alien and the person who finds him? Or could the alien be the catalyst for a romance between two humans?
* Could I make this into a Western, a murder mystery, a horror, a paranormal (perhaps a stranded vampire)?
* What if I set this story on a space station, or in Elizabethan England, or in antarctica, etc.?
There are many more questions you could ask. But maybe the best question is "What one thing would I change to make this story totally awesome?"
Then rewrite the logline to fit your new idea.
Once you have a new logline, make a list of questions someone could ask about it. Once you have a list, make up a list of possible answers for each question. Choose the answers you like best and use them to create many new versions of the logline. Repeat this process several times if you like.
This type of playing can generate an infinite number of story ideas from one logline. Imagine if you did this exercise once a week, using a different logline each time? Of course, you could do the same process with events in the news or in the lives of people you know. Out of the hundreds of ideas you come up with, you will surely have a few each month that really grab you - and that's more than enough to always have something to work on.