If how do you write is the oft asked question authors face; then a close second is how do you think of story ideas?
Most authors will tell you that the first book literally gushes out of you. (At least that’s what happened with me). You don’t really have to spend much time thinking about what to write. Everything you’ve felt, experienced or believe in comes out in the first one. It doesn’t have to be your biography or memoir; you and your life so far will imprint itself on your debut book in a big way. When my first book A Forgotten Affair was published, my friends scrambled to get a copy to see if they featured in it. Some identified instances of exchanges with them in the story, some found themselves carefully tucked in characters and some knew it was them, outright. Those who found no traces of themselves were offended. “I don’t mean anything to you because I’m not in your first book.” Well, i wasn’t chronicling my life or telling my story but willy-nilly people I love & dislike did get into the book.
But coming back to the topic of the post, how to think of story ideas…if you want to keep writing books, you have to turn on the story receptor in your head. You have to spot ideas and marinade them well enough so that they turn out into a juicy steak. Not rare or medium but well done. (Pardon my food metaphor!)
If you want to write and are struggling with what to write about, here are certain things you can do to get into the ‘write frame of mind.’
READ THE NEWS & WATCH TV
Yes, I know there’s utter garbage in the News and most of which is so off-putting and disgusting. But buried beneath all that garbage is a seed of idea that could become a great book. To explain further, I hate reality TV. I can’t stand the nonsensical drama that unfolds only to spike TRP and fill the coffers of the producers and TV channels. I don’t watch any but I read about them in news snippets and articles. It’s from these snippets that I got the idea of setting Nobody’s child in the backdrop of a reality TV music contest. The story of a young girl from the back of beyond, running away from a difficult past, trying to make a new life for herself in the music world. Her path crosses with vile manipulative people who have an agenda of their own and don’t stop at anything to win. That’s the gist of Nobody’s Child.
Small insignificant news items can often become the base of your story. So look out for those. You can set Google alerts for topics that interest you and news will be delivered in your inbox.
A plane goes missing. A bomb blast in a hotel. Devastating monsoon. Locust attack. COVID19. Tucked in each of them are multiple possible stories that you can cull out and write. Let’s take the most recent catastrophe that has the entire world in its grip – COVID19. I’ll suggest few story ideas below:
A thriller – a building in the outskirts of a city. City goes into lockdown. No one can come in or go out. The cops put out an alert. A dreaded killer has escaped and is hiding somewhere in the area. Is he in the building? Is he going to kill people? What happens…
Romance – a woman goes away to a sea side or mountain retreat to recoup. Lockdown happens and the people in the retreat are locked in. she comes face to face with her ex-lover. They both were together in college. It was a very serious relationship but didn’t work out. Both went their separate paths. She underwent abortion during that relationship, which the guy didn’t know. Now they are locked in together. What happens?
Now let’s think of an earthquake and try to make a story.
A woman, an artist works with an NGO that sends volunteers to a prison to help teach the inmates art. The day she is sent to the prison, an earthquake happens and she is locked inside the prison with the inmates. What happens? Among the inmates she finds an aged woman. Who is that woman? Is there any relation between them?
Read about international events of importance and flex your writing muscles to make a story out of it.
Getting bored at a party. Arrived too early for the flight or for a meeting. (Of course this is tough given the current circumstances but when life goes back to normal) Just sit back and watch the best show on earth. Life and people around you. How are they talking to each other? What are they doing with their hands, hair? Their body language as they speak with others? Everything will tell you something.
UNSOLVED CRIME CASES OF THE PAST
I’m a huge fan of unsolved cases, true crime or even solved cases that can serve as an inspiration for a new story. I search the Internet about such cases, read them and try to make a story. My book 3 is inspired by an event that happened in the US in the early 1970s.
The main story of Nobody’s Child is from a letter I read in an agony aunt column in a magazine years ago. It stayed with me and I knew some day I would write a story on it. The character of Kamini Pratap Singh is inspired by the case of a rich and influential socialite and businesswoman who allegedly killed her own daughter and is now in prison.
There are stories galore around you. All you need to do is to notice them and get inspired. It’s not easy but then if it were then everyone would become a writer. You just need to train your mind to do it and before you know you’ll be writing away!
If you haven’t read my books, here’s the link for them.
4 thoughts on “HOW TO THINK OF STORY IDEAS?”
A very useful blog post Kanchana, you did get my mind ticking at many places. True, observing life around us, reading bits and pieces and sometimes long articles too- everything leaves an impact on our subconscious, and when one seeks to write a story, bam, it hits you and it may then flow! Good job!
I love observing people! Pre-Covid, what I’d do was to sit in Starbucks with earphones in my ears (no music, of course), just to observe the way people acted and what they talked about. I did lots of writing drills with this. Thanks for sharing this awesome list, Kanchana!
Thanks for dropping by! I know what you mean. I miss being in a cafe, quietly listening and watching people.
I have uploaded a short story and also a post on how to deal with writer’s block. do read and share your thoughts. TIA