[Write On Wednesday] Story Sparks

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Every established writer has a tale to tell about being asked that question.

Some of them lie and tell people they order them from an Idea store. Some wearily answer that they think really hard until the ideas come. Still others joyfully shout that ideas are everywhere, what are you crazy? Don’t you see them?!

The truth is, the more you look for ideas, the more you’ll see them. But you do have to look

The Prompt

This week’s prompt is not a writing prompt, but a prompt-prompt. This week you’re going to look for Story Sparks.

We’re just over a month away from StoryADay May. You’re going to need at least 31 ideas (more in case a few don’t work out).  I’m not talking about outlining your stories, or even coming  up with great ideas, just about writing a list of sparks for stories, or places you can find those sparks.

Ray Bradbury in Zen In The Art of Writing, talks about one method of gathering what I’ve come to think of as “story sparks”:

“I began to gather long lists of titles, to put down long lines of nouns. These nouns were provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface.”

Today, set a timer for as long as you can manage (ten minutes? 20? Half an hour?) and then use that time to write down as many Story Sparks as you can.

Write down:

  • Lists of nouns (things that scare you, matter to you, frustrate you)
  • Your favorite colorful metaphors. (Consider them as titles for a story)
  • Aphorisms you can play with (“See No Evil” “A Bird In The Hand”)
  • The names of the weirdest people you have met in your life (or a quick description if you can’t remember their real names)
  • Lyrics and lines from poetry that have stuck in your brain for years
  • The titles of your favorite artworks
  • The most striking places you’ve visited (potential settings)
  • Historical tidbits you’ve learned on trips (or in your own town)

Extra Credit

Capture three more story sparks every day for the next week: eavesdrop, read obituaries, browse the front page of Wikipedia, bookmark quirky photographs, read poetry, delve into medical textbooks, looks, listen, smell, breathe in the world around you. Capture three sparks from all that living you do every day.

Share in the comments a source of story sparks that you discovered or found most productive.

Need more help? Get the ebook that grew out of this article: Breaking Writers’ Block, A StoryADay Guide

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