Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 14 comments
What's the difference between a story you poke away at aimlessly when the fancy strikes, and one that dogs you when you're going about your business, haunts your dreams and waking life alike?

The obvious answer would be passion. The stories one is passionate about may be easier to write (or harder), and they have an amazing way of grabbing readers and pulling them deep into your story world.

The funny thing is, stories that tap into our passions don't tend to just fall in our laps. At least, not very often. Passion-based stories sometimes require hunting and soul-work.

There are some great places to begin the search for your passions.
church window, Stow-on-the-Wold

1. Gather twenty of your favorite books or films. Seek commonalities among them. What made these stories resonate for you? Did they have a similar subject matter? Kind of protagonist? Emotional range? Plot set-up? Theme?

2. Write out some of you deepest beliefs. Imagine scenarios in which those values would be challenged or questioned.

   My novel Never Gone, for example, explores with how a teen attempts to reconcile her Christian beliefs about the immortality of the soul with her own very raw emotions while grieving.

3. Remember some of the most intense experiences of your life--times when you learned amazing things, faced a great challenge, overcame an obstacle, shifted your entire outlook.

4. Consider your own personal struggles. What problems do you wish could be resolved yesterday? What hardships in the past have shaped you most? What kind of topics in a bookstore's self-help section grab your attention?

5. Visit news sites. Note which stories you have a visceral reaction to, be it anger, sadness, disgust, excitement, or an itch to learn more.

If you are able to combine two or more of these areas, chances are you'll tap more deeply into subjects and themes that will grab your imagination hard and not let it go. Stories with that kind of passionate drive at their center are what readers want most.

How do you typically generate story ideas? Which ways might you try to identify subjects and themes you're passionate about?

14 comments:

  1. Great ideas, Laurel. I especially like #1. I tend to like to write in the genres I like to read the most. And seeing what I really like about a book can get me going to see if I could do something similar, like mix genres for example.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pairing favorites with your own experiences, struggles or beliefs can make for an even more compelling writing and reading experience.

      Delete
  2. Great post. I agree that our deepest beliefs often come out through themes in our work as well as in the books we fall in love with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree wholeheartedly. The more we're conscious of the beliefs and themes as we write, the more our whole selves engage in the writing process.

      Delete
  3. Those are some amazing ideas for jumping off, Laurel! I'm having this crazy experience. The last book I wrote, (#7,) was painstaking torture. Every chapter made me want to gouge my eyes out, even though there was a life and essence to it--and even a theme I TOTALLY love. It wasn't until I altered the entire focus of the novel it started to flow. To contrast that, this sequel I'm writing now is like Austrian chocolate: smooth. It comes whenever I bid it, it flows without issue, and it keeps me happy.

    I think timing is a key element to writing a story as well. This is me going out on odd vibes, but on a deeper level, I think there's a time for certain stories to come about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree that some ideas come when you aren't ready to write them. I'd initially conceived of the MC of Never Gone like 20 years ago. I couldn't get going in part because I needed to go back in her timeline and start the story much earlier than I'd initially thought. I ended up approaching her deeper issues from a very different angle. Suddenly the story flowed.

      Delete
  4. This is a great post. I'm tweeting it!

    Ideas for novels come to me when I least expect it. I never have to go looking for a novel idea. But for some reason short story ideas are a little harder. So I definitely have used similar techniques as you've listed here. Writing prompts are excellent for generating story ideas, too. You think you're just doing a simple 5-minute exercise, then BAM! you see a potential story developing. Love that! I'm a big fan of writing prompts.

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tweetage. i agree that short stories are harder for me too. My ideas tend to come to me with lots of complications and subplots immediately suggesting themselves. Reining in and shaping that into something short would be very tough.

      Prompts can be a really great tool to keep yourself writing.

      Delete
  5. I write about topics I'm passionate about. Most of my story ideas just slam in to me and demand to be written. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had the idea slam too, usually some minor thing that bumps against things I'm passionate about.

      Delete
  6. I like #2 and #3 suggestions. It's fascinating all the strange places that spark an idea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you found this useful. I think some folks rely a lot on market forces or writing prompts when seeking ideas, and the stories don't gel. Starting from places of passion will imbue energy into a project.

      Delete
  7. These are great tips - I'm not sure how I come up with ideas. They usually drift into my head as I'm trying to sleep.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My ideas come when I'm doing dishes or some other chore. I think letting the conscious mind relax allows the subconscious mind to have a say. And that's where the interesting stuff happens.

      Delete