Howdy Folks and happy Saturday to you.
Last week, we talked a bit about what a short story was. Here’s a bit more on that before we jump into how to find stories all around you.
Usually, a short story is going to be about a significant event in the character’s life. Not always. But when you’re writing short stories, you don’t really have time to meander about. Everything you do needs to serve the story and you have a relatively short amount of time to hook your reader into that story.
Okay. That said, let’s talk ideas. They’re all around you and there are LOTS of ways to trick yourself into finding them.
Remember last week’s trip to the library? That’s a great place to find ideas. Wander the stacks and pull down books you normally wouldn’t. Grab the paintings of Van Gogh, the poetry of TS Eliot, and one of those Time Life series — maybe the one on Gunslingers from the Wild West collection they did. Jot down notes and let your imagination run wild with what happens if those bits of Different are mixed on your palette into one story.
Pay attention to the people you see. Who are the people in your neighborhood? The people that you meet each day? I remember once seeing Jesus in a tracksuit dragging a big wooden cross that had a wheel attached to it. He was short-cutting through a Safeway parking lot. There’s absolutely a story there. Maybe a dozen.
Keep an eye out for found objects. You never know when you’ll run across something that just begs to tell a story. A little bead monkey that looked like it had three eyes, combined with a conversation with an unemployed clown and a bookstore customer named Kamal led to “Making My Entrance Again with My Usual Flair” — the story I had to write in 24 hours during my Writers of the Future workshop.
Another great place to find ideas is the anthology market list over at www.ralan.com. I’ve pulled down a lot of short story ideas from just thinking about the various themes attached to different editor’s visions. I’ve found a lot of ideas that turned into stories there…and sold a good amount of them after I’d gotten enough practice at it.
And then there are prompts. “The Boy Who Could Bend and Fall” was a product of Rachel Dryden daring me to write a story based loosely on the word slinky. Her dare was grapes. And “Summer in Paris, Light From the Sky” came from three randomly generated words — Hitler Leads Whiskey — in Ken Rand’s class From Idea to Story in 90 Seconds. That story got me the closest I’ve been, I think, to a Nebula award.
I think you get the idea. Heh. Bad pun. So I’m going to wrap up with a list of a few of my other stories and what idea(s) brought them about.
“Last Flight of the Goddess” was a product of me playing Fable (where your character ages, some what-if’s about D&D characters falling in love, getting married and retiring to raise a family.
“Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk” was brought about when a coworker in 1991 re-ignited my love of Pooh, which led to me re-reading the stories sometime in 1994, which led to me wondering about how Pooh would fare in a SF setting, at first piloting a starfighter…until the story gelled more.
“Grail-Diving in Shangrilla with the World’s Last Mime” was just a title that I cooked up one day and it absolutely begged me to write a story that would serve it well.
Next week, we’ll start talking about how to organize your ideas into a story.
Until then, Trailer Boy out.