A Writers’ Fountain of Story Ideas
TIPS FOR UNLIMITED WRITING PROMPTS
SO you’re not the type of creative who fancy walking around graveyards to read inscriptions on gravestones in order to stir your creative juices.
No problem. You can seize story ideas without leaving home, and NOT in front of your computer either.
All you need are physical reading materials, i.e. books, newspapers, magazines, travel brochures, manuals, and even promo leaflets of all sorts.
If you do not have any or many of the above, then sorry to say but you are not a writer.
Writers read, and read a lot. You cannot yearn for success as a writer if you are not a reader.
And for a writer not to have, in your possession, physical reading matters – does that not make you a poseur?
Writers who do not read are poseurs
It is through reading that we learn and grow. It is through reading that we are able to roam a world, or many worlds. Through a string of words that awaken our curiosity, our sensitivity and passion to surrender to what we love to do.
The variety of reading materials are tools that thrill the creative cells in the writers’ essential nature, compelling the creative in us to create.
But you may ask: is there a fountain in which writers can dip into for writing ideas?
Necessity is the mother of creativity
Let me digress a bit to give context on how I learned these writing hacks that I am sharing with you.
Ever heard of the English proverb, necessity is the mother of invention?
I’m sure you have.
Plato (c.427-347 BC), the philosopher, wrote, “our need will be the real creator”.
This quote was from The Republic which was published in 375 BC.
Over time, Plato’s famous saying became an English proverb: necessity is the mother of invention.
Writing like mad due to necessity
Many years ago, I was a visual storyteller writing for illustrated magazines or comic books in the Philippines. The demand for scripts for short stories (four to five pages each, with 18 to 26 frames) was at its peak. The money was good. But as a single mother who also helped my younger siblings, I needed to work thrice as hard.
I worked for the money, true, but I did not let the quality of my stories suffer, ever.
So, out of necessity came the mother of creativity. I wrote four short-story scripts a day, Monday to Friday. The weekends were left for my magazine columns and solicited articles. This went on for close to three years.
(In case you were wondering, yes, I had no life at the time.)
I was attached to my typewriter, eating meals in front of my typewriter, notes, research, deadline schedules. I locked myself in my room writing scripts until my brain felt mushy from creative fatigue.
To be able to come up with a minimum of four short-story scripts a day on weekdays, I did the following first thing:
*Browsed the newspapers, one broadsheet, two tabloids; highlighted the parts that jumped at me; sensational and sensationalized tabloid news items were a perpetual mine for story plots.
Note that I did not write about the very same news story. I just picked up a nugget to use as writing prompt.
*Browsed women’s magazines, straight to the Agony Aunt or Lonely Hearts’ columns. Then and now, a mother lode of story ideas could be mined on those pages. Check any magazine or newspaper available, even old issues, and you will find ideas galore for short fiction.
By the way, for over a year I actually wrote two weekly magazine columns: one advice column and the other, a matchmaker’s column. It was no fun reading boxes of letters from readers, but it was a goldmine of plots!
*Flipped through other reading matters in case there was a phrase that would jump out at me, screaming “write about me, too”.
Let your imagination run wild
SO, there you are.
There is no arguing that writers are surrounded with story ideas from physical reading materials.
The technique is to focus on which group of words or paragraph immediately stimulates your creative juices. Let your imagination run wild and run free.
Don’t forget to read a lot, even billboards, signage along the way, flyers, postcards, even candy wrappers. You never know when you’ll stumble into new information that will light up your creativity.
Happy reading to all aspiring and budding writers!
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
First published here.