Writing the Short Story: Where To Find Ideas?

I took a stab in the near dark (more like twilight) and wrote my first short story. Before I stabbed, I wondered where my idea would come from? You’ve probably heard that the easiest way to churn out ideas is to ask a simple question: “What if?”

– What if you woke up in a deserted village in Southeast Asia and had no idea how you got there? Or how to get out?
– What if you discover your dear old aunt Alice has been busy printing counterfeit bills? In your basement?
– What if your best friend of twenty years goes missing, but leaves you a note that says, “Don’t worry”?

And the list is endless. This is not necessarily the way I write. Sometimes ideas do pop into my head, which I might or might not use, and if I don’t write them down, there’s a strong chance, they’ll pop right out. To get me going, I need to ask a few more questions. Like where will the setting be? Or who’ll be the hero/heroine? Because what good’s an idea if you don’t have people, an interesting place and a bit of conflict or turmoil to breathe life into a story?

To get the ball rolling, I picked my setting first: A seaside city on the east coast that I’ve occasionally visited. Then I picked landmarks in the city where things could happen. Criminal things. Next, I read news stories (blurbs really) in that part of the country and found a tidbit that interested me. More than that, a character in the tidbit intrigued me enough for me to want to run with it. Why? Because the character had done a good deed, and that’s the stuff that heroes are made of.

Still I needed more to stir up the action in my story. I dug deep into my recent past. A few years ago, an older gentlemen came into the nonprofit where I work needing legal help. I don’t recall much about his problem, other than it sounded like a tall tale, but was it? I also recalled a particular aspect of his physical appearance that made him unique. So his persona was inserted in my story. I opened with my hero meeting this older character with a tall tale that leads to a conflict, namely a crime that was about to be committed. Could they stop it? And there I had it: the basic elements of my short story.

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6 years ago

All I can say is excellent. I always enjoy reading your blog.

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