Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ten Tips for Story Starters

By Jax Hunter

Almost every time I tell someone that I’m a writer, I get this question: Where do you get your ideas? Frankly, I have to beat back ideas. I have to tell imaginary people to “take a number.” It’s really quite silly. However, I do know that getting story ideas can be a problem. So here are a few ways to spark story ideas. 


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1. Start with a character. Write his biography. Then plunk him down in the middle of a situation. Maybe stick him in a stalled elevator, alone or with two other people, one he loves, one he hates.

2. Start with a setting. Create a place complete with a history. (Think Mistwillow.) Create a skeleton population. Then, set off a bomb, figuratively. A car accident. A weather event. A scandal.

3. Start with a Dear Abby column (do they even still have these?) Create the characters and play what-if until you know how they came to the point where they would actually write that letter. I mean, who writes those letters anyway? What’s the turn-around time? Would you really take your problems to that forum? Somebody does. But I digress. . .

4. Start with a movie logline and write your own story. This works best if you haven’t seen the movie.

Independence Day - Aliens try to invade earth on Independence Day.

Liar, Liar - An attorney, because of a birthday wish, can't tell any lies for 24 hours.

Dead Calm - A married couple, trying to recover from the death of their only child, are terrorized at sea by a handsome maniac.

The Hunt for Red October - A Soviet submarine captain uses Russia's ultimate underwater weapon as a means to defect to the west.

The Last Boy Scout - A private detective must team up with an ex-football star to catch the killer of a topless dancer.

5. Start with a familiar fairy tale. Plunk it down in a contemporary setting. Combine two fairy tales:  Cinderella with Beauty and the Beast, Three Little Pigs with Little Red Riding Hood.

6. Start with a title. Next time you’re in the book store, jot down ten titles. Then write a story summary from the title.

7. Start with a cluster of words. Most of us have been in a writing class in which the leader gave us five words with which to build a story. It’s a simple technique and just might jumpstart your story. Chimney, graffiti, lawyer, ferret, Porsche. There you go, write that story!

8. Start with a story opener. Here’s a fun website that will generate just such a sentence: http://www.thestorystarter.com. Here’s the sentence it gave me: The bewildered scientist destroyed the evidence in the store to discover the dark secret.

9. Start with a cliche. Kill him with kindness. Sit around and collect dust. Get a bird’s-eye view. Take the words right out of his mouth. I say jump, you say “how high” on the way up. There’s even a cliche generator for you here: http://www.westegg.com/cliche/random.cgi

10. Start with a first line. Again, at the book store, pick up ten books from different genres. Jot down their first lines. Use those first lines to brainstorm a plot. I recently read an article about actually starting your novel with a classic first line like “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” then adding to it. But, again, I digress.

Alrighty, campers. There’s your list for the month. Go forth and create. Have fun. And, until next month, BiC-HoK. 


About the Author:  Jax Hunter is a published romance writer and freelance copywriter. She wears many hats including EMT, CPR instructor, and Grammy. She is currently working on a contemporary romance series set in ranching country Colorado and a historical romance set in 1775 Massachusetts. She lives in Colorado Springs, belongs to PPW, RMFW and is a member of the Professional Writer's Alliance.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post - chockfull of great ideas! I wonder if Dear Abby is still around. I'm not sure. I want to say both Abby and Ann Landers died…maybe someone in the family picked up where they left off? I used to read their advice columns as a teen. :)

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