1. Start with an Emotion!
I don’t know if you’re like me, but there is a quite large quantity of short stories “piling” up on my hard drive, USB keys and cloud storage. And what do a vast number of them have in common? They interest no one.
Why is that? I wondered. Isn’t everything that flows from my brain sublime? And if not, at least interesting?
The hard cold truth struck me in the face one morning: Apparently not.
Recovering from the blow, I turned to the stories readers did enjoy. An answer finally came. The ones they preferred were always those in which I successfully captured a strong emotion. It worked even better if I had actually lived the anger, jealousy, shame, anticipation, or joy in a vivid real-life event.
So what am I suggesting? When in need of a brilliant story idea, recall moments in your life when you felt strong emotions. Can you put those sensations down on paper?
2. Remember What Makes a Story
Now, before you describe in five pages the morning that crazy driver cut you off in traffic and how rage overwhelmed you, let’s take a moment to breathe a little.
Emotions are good. Crucial even: if there is something readers are avid of, it’s not a clever plot twist or an action-packed scene where giant robots fight invaders from space (although they may love those too!). Above all, they want to feel something.
Why not write about that road rage event then? A valid question. The problem is elsewhere: it lacks what stories are made of.
A story becomes a story when desire comes into play. The protagonist has to want something badly. Forcing him (or her) to confront danger in order to attain it is key. The struggle can be either physical or moral, but it should be meaningful enough for others to care.
To sum up, if you want an never-ending list of story ideas to pick from, sit down and come up with desires a hero might have. Then put youtself in the enemy’s shoes. What would you do if you wanted to prevent him (or her) from reaching the goal?
3. Become a Dream Catcher
This one is pretty simple. You write down your dreams.
I noticed that the more I acknowledged my dreams, the more came to me. They also became a lot clearer. If you don’t remember your dreams at all, simply say to yourself before falling asleep: “Tonight, I will dream and will remember my dreams when I wake up.” I know, it sounds a bit voodoo, but it can lead to quite surprising results.
Don’t underestimate this little tip: I created the story world for my first novel and harvested cool atmospheres and plot points for short stories by paying attention to what was going on inside my head at night.
4. Sit Down Anyways
You have writer’s block and panic seems to be on its way over? Okay, let’s try something different.
If only for fifteen minutes, just sit down in front of a blank page. You don’t have to write anything if you don’t want too. Just sit and let your mind wander.
And don’t sweat it. Try to relax.
Not even a single word came out? Good. Come back tomorrow, and the day after that. Eventually, ideas will come; the simple act of taking the step to sit down in front of the screen or paper will poke awake your internal little workers also known as your subconscious.