Writing Club: Where do story ideas come from?

IMG_2611Another meeting of the Writing Club has come and gone. We’re still working out who’s coming and when, but we seem to be settling in… Here’s what happened:

5-minute Prompt:  MY HOUSE

(5-minute, stream-of-consciousness exercise, write whatever pops into your brain on the topic. Don’t bother with sentences, paragraphs, or punctuation. Just write.)

Another interesting exercise! Did you write about the practical basics – walls, ceiling, floor – or did you get into how it feels? Common words in our group: warm, cozy. Another interesting aspect: do your words reflect the building itself, or the dynamic of the people within? Does your home hold emotions somehow, are the curtains and rugs saturated with it, like smoke or pet smells?

Where do Story Ideas come from?

They can come from dreams, poetry, music, artwork, books and movies, news stories. I like to follow science and nature stories, where I can find prompts like yesterday’s Green Sky Mystery, and the Giant Pink Slugs.

My novel, Eldritch Manor, began as I read about mythology and fantastical beasts, coupled with the thought of them somehow living in the present day, in regular, boring old apartments. That’s all it takes sometimes, to get you started.



And an awful lot can come out of just one image. Filmmaker Werner Herzog had an image come to him of a steamship being hauled over the top of a mountain… so he made a movie about it. (Fitzcarraldo, 1982) Oh yes, and he actually did pull a steamship over a mountain too. Which may just be taking things too far…

Here’s another source of story ideas – keep an eye out for strange and unusual jobs. Do you ever wonder ‘what would it be like to do that every day?’ What would it be like to be a crime scene cleaner, or a sky diving instructor, or a late night hotel desk clerk? If you write scifi, once you’ve thought up your strange future world, come up with a job unique to that world. For example, in Blade Runner the main character has the job of hunting down and killing escaped replicants.

 If you’re looking for story ideas you’ve got to keep your eyes and ears open all the time, and… (smooth segue into the next item…)

notebook_01Writing Tip: Keep a Notebook!

Remember Harriet the Spy? This is good advice for spies or writers: Get yourself an inexpensive notebook (I find the fancy ones too intimidating) and carry it with you everywhere! Jot down anything that catches your eye, or your ear. Odd names, song lyrics, quotes, jokes, weird words, book lists, overheard snippets of conversation, wonderings, ponderings, and puns. You never know what could sprout a story.

And, P.S. everyone in my group: Bring a notebook and pen (or a computer) to meetings! Don’t forget!

 New Words

More vocabulary-builders. I brought one of my favourites:

defenestration – the act of throwing someone or something out of a window

And the group contributed some more gems:

exquisite – extremely beautiful and, typically, delicate

mundane – lacking interest or excitement; dull

kunoichi – female ninja

peduncle – stem (ie. of a pumpkin)

Here’s a good source of new and unusual words – if you subscribe to A Word A Day you will receive a daily email with a new word. (As a bonus, there’s also a daily quote at the bottom.)

15-minute Springboard Prompt

Here’s the first line, you write what comes next.

The Dillinger family was huge – seven kids in all – and their act at the School Talent Show was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.


Next meeting: You’ve all been asking for it, so we’re finally going to delve into Character Development! In particular, the First-Person Narrator. Do you have any favourite first-person narrators?

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