So, you’ve decided that you would like to write a story. Congratulations! But where do you start?
Whether you have written no more than a sentence or an entire anthology, you have what it takes. Every member of the human race has a story inside of them. But whether or not you can discover it, write it down, and share it is up to you.
But how exactly can you find inspiration? I have a few ideas.
Look for Story Prompts
A picture can literally say a thousand words (or more if you story has to be longer). Pinterest, Flickr, or Unsplash are great websites to find creative images that will help inspire your next story. I always like to make storyboards with just pictures I find on websites. You can always do the old fashioned collage as well.
Quotes & Sentences
During my class’s creative writing time the sixth grade, I was introduced to a type of writing prompt that never failed me in my task to procure a story: the sentence strategy. The teacher would read a quote, each one sentence long, to the class that each of our stories had to include in the text. I always used it as the first sentence of my story to help launch the readers into my tale.
For example, we were given the line: “The curse of the full moon began,” which I used as the first sentence in my short story “Cursed,” a tale about a woman accused of witchcraft and sentenced to be burned at the stake due to the immortality that consumes her every night of the full moon. But luckily, on the night she is sentenced to die, a full moon is shining.
Another sentence, “Gray clouds overlooked the sky,” was the catalyst for my story The Willow House Mystery, which eventually turned into a Middle Grade chapter book I’m working on publishing.
For examples of other story prompts, check out my Tools page. There are also infinite websites dedicated to Story Prompts. Some I like are Pinterest, Plot Generator, and Writers Write just to name a few.
Other Stories & Fairy Tales
Every great writer got to where they are today because they read about something they liked. So what appeals to you? History? Adventure? Romance? Mystery? And who do you want to read your book? Children? Teenagers? Young Adults? Christians? Atheists? Everybody?
The best way you can decide what kind of story appeals to you is to READ many different kinds of genres. Then you will have that “Aha!” moment when a certain type tickles your creative funny-bone and spawns a new idea in that particular genre.
If you want to tell the story of somebody non-fictional in your own words, try reading biographies and then tailor which person you want to tell a story about to fit the particular audience you wish to reach.
And luckily, since fairytales are public domain, they are fair game to either re-tell or twist into your own imaginative spin.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Inquiries
While it is never good form to only ever write what you think people would want to read, ask others what kinds of stories they find fascinating and why. You may find a common interest or it may help to confirm and develop the idea for a story you may have been tossing around in your mind.
I recommend subscribing to Freedom with Writing for emails about upcoming literary magazines and contests. If you want to see what kinds of calls for submissions the market is looking for, this is a great resource to inspire a great story!
In addition, someone who you know may want to tell their story but might be too shy or inept to write it themselves, so you could offer your services. It may not be your own story you are communicating, but at least it can be a catalyst to help you get words onto paper and learn the craft of how to organize and craft a whole story.
Listen to Music
This may be an obvious idea to some, but I’m always one who likes to think of far off places and settings that only certain types of music can bring to my imagination.
Also, never underestimate the power that your favorite movie soundtracks can bring to your imagination!
Hate the End of A Story? Write A Different One!
Do you ever experience that moment when you are in the middle of a book or movie and something happens where the character you have come to know and love does something completely against his nature? Like the hero succumbs to the villain’s wrath or changes into the villain or succumbs to the weakness plaguing him the whole story (i.e. Darth Vader, Ross Poldark, Gene Grey–come on you guys!)? You want to pull your hair out because you realize how much better it could have been if only what you wanted to have happen actually happened.
While many of these stories NEED these character flaws to keep the story going, sometimes when I am stuck in this situation I feel like reaching inside the book or movie screen and doing one of those “he could have had a V8” conks on the character’s forehead. But then I realize that I can redeem the quality of this character that I love by instilling it in the one I had in my own imagination and develop it into a story I would want to read.
Of course, I’m not encouraging you to plagiarize in any way another author’s character, just hone the traits you admire in your favorite characters and develop a story and an ending for them that you know they would deserve.
This principle can apply in real life as well. I’m sure that you as well as I deal with your own share of misfortunes every day. If only we could wave the magic wand of wishful thinking and change our circumstances! The great truth is, with words, we can. Which brings me to my next point…
Turn Real-Life Foes & Friends into Fiction
Sometimes when I experience hardship in the form of a bad day at work to the loss of a family member, I find writing out my frustrations really help. I can turn my real-life enemies into fictional villains.
What sweeter revenge is there than to show your enemies–or just real-life bad guys–the error of their ways, which may result in their actually learning from it? Sometimes people do not realize their misdeeds until they are actually faced with them, which may or may not lead them to change.
While those characters of life who choose to remain resolved in their flawed ways will stay the same static, unrounded, and stale villains we read about in fairytales, only the truly dynamically ones will resolve to evolve into the heroes we know and love.
How satisfying will it be to know that you played a hand in that transformation?
Authors like J.K. Rowling, Lewis Carol, and Jane Austen (and I’m sure every other author we know) created timeless characters from important people in their own lives. In a way, when you incorporate names, traits, and stories from true people who have either negatively or positively impacted your life, you are indeed memorializing their names and deeds for all time.