Sunday, September 27, 2009

Finding Story

Where do you get your story ideas? It is the question most often asked of writers. I get story ideas from everywhere. I may be driving in the country and see an old cross of the top of a hill and suddenly I have to know the story of the cross and why it's there. But since I'm driving and may never come back that way...well, I make one up. I might pass an old run down house that looks haunted...yep, new story.
I might over hear a conversation on a bus or the train and suddenly a story comes to mind.
News stories can create stories-for example a man discovered an old Anglo Saxon treasure horde buried on a farm using his metal detector. Boy that's ripe with story- What/who left the treasure? How was it collected? Most of it is male oriented-belts, hilts and souvenirs. Suddenly a Saxon leader is born in my head and the story of how he gathered the horde and what eventually led him to bury it. Or a contemporary story of a treasure hunter who discovers a horde-then instead of turning it in-he hides it...until the bad guys discover what he's hidden...then you have a thriller-
Stories ideas are everywhere. They begin with the questions what and who--what would happen if she left he husband and took a journey around the world. Who would bury a can full of cash under a tree. What if you were the only person alive? Who buried a rune stone under a popular tree in Minnesota?
So, story ideas are everywhere. The key is to discover which ideas have the potential to become books that will sell. The only way to know that is to study the market place. Study the genres you love to read. Study the current trends. Research publisher's guidelines, editor's blogs, agent's tweets and pay attention to what they are looking for. Then figure out which story idea has the potential to sell. Write that story. Cheers!


Jessica said...

Great advice Nancy! I seem to get most of mine from looking at people. I wonder what their life is like, what's happened to them, etc.

You're right about sifting through the ideas to find the strongest one.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jessica, thanks! I was concerned the post didn't make sense since I had a sleep deprived weekend due to a long distance wedding. Aren't weddings fun? Oh, and a great place to find story ideas. :)

Linda Kage said...

I think that's the hardest question to answer. Where DO my story ideas come from? But, you're right, they do come from everywhere. A dream, a movie where I'd like to change the ending, driving past an unusual site and needing a story to go with it, hearing a conversation... points of inspiration are endless.

Thank you for your advice, because frankly, some of the story ideas are just too odd to share.

Ann Victor said...

Wasn't the news story about the treasure horde of Anglo-Saxon artifacts incredibly interesting?? :)

My stories usually start with an image in my head, a picture or a phrase and somehow they seem to grow from there. The problem is, as you say, deciding which ones will end up in a marketable story. I've given up trying to fgure that one out and just write what I want to. The cost of that decision, of course, is that I'm still unpublished. Sigh.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Linda- there is a cross on a hill off the turnpike either just before or just after Emporia- everytime I see it I picture a woman standing over it the wind blowing through her skirts...

Ann-What's awful about the marketing thing is that by the time you write the story they tweeted for- they are already looking for something else. So, who can say, really, what the best way to choose a story is.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Story ideas are everywhere but I never know if they'll actually develop into a book until I start working on them. Some just end up as a short story and others end up as filler for my trash bin.

Ashley Ladd said...

This also comes back to your post today about Finding Balance. If you don't get out of the house and live life, you won't discover all the neat things you just mentioned to get the good story ideas.

I always keep a notebook with me to jot down story and character ideas or descriptions of things.