Mining for story ideas

Ideas are everywhere. It’s those good ones that are hard to find. At least for me. That’s why I love those writing challenges.

Storystorm, created and hosted by the fantabulous picture book author Tara Lazar, is my favorite writing challenge. Every January, picture book authors and wanna-be authors start the new year with a full month of imaginative play.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Play—that’s the operative word here. Let your imagination play. No pressure. Just let it run wild to create new ideas—even if a lot, or maybe even most, turn out to be, well, crappy.

So what if they are? I think of those crappy ideas as a brain dump. It’s a way for my brain to flush out the useless stuff so it can retain and focus on the useful information. I tell myself every crappy idea gets me closer to a good idea, a workable idea, an idea that becomes a real story.

Maybe your idea appears crappy right after you write it down … or a day or two later …  or halfway through your first draft. Even if you file it away in your “Epic Fail” folder, someday you might mine through it again and see a kernel of a better idea glimmering through the mire and muck.

Sometimes I look through my “No way will these see the light of day” stories and remember the hours, days, or even weeks spent on those losers. Wasted time? Writing time is never wasted time. It’s good practice—as long as you’re working toward improvement.

And sometimes, you might find, that one of those fails can be reworked into something completely different—and wonderful.

So, go ahead. Carve out time each day to let your imagination play. Tell it: “No pressure. No expectations.” Find writing challenges like Storystorm or writing prompts on the internet. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Find an object, and write about the Day in the Life of a ________________.
  • Without looking creepy, observe a stranger in a public place and make up an unusual job or identity for him.
  • If you were Big Foot, why wouldn’t you want to be found? Think of the fame and fortune!