There Once Was a Yodeling Goat: How Do You Come Up With Story Ideas?
Posted by Melissa
Not long ago, I started writing a new story. It startled me a bit, because the idea did not come upon me the way that my ideas usually do. Let me explain how my muse works.
I will be walking along, minding my own business, when I will hear a voice in my head. Now, most people, upon hearing disembodied voices coming from inside their skulls, will do one of two things:
- Oy! Who are you? GET OUT BEFORE I CALL THE…ER… BRAIN POLICE! HELPHELPHELP! (to which the voice chuckles malevolently and starts singing a song about polka dotted elephants…)
- Oh, hello, who are you? Ah, that’s nice. What are you doing in my head? Well, as long as you keep it tidy up there, I don’t mind. Wait… you’d like me to do what? Very well, if you say so…
Well, writers who hear voices often have a different experience. We know that the voices just want to be heard and to come out on a page. They want to be free of our heads as much as we want to let them out. So, when I hear a voice saying something interesting or odd, I pause, listen, and then consider: what story would that make?
For instance, my serial in our e-zine, a story I dubbed The Holder Wars, begins with the line:
It all started the day they chased me out of the village with pitchforks.
I wondered… what started? Who is this person? And thus, Mikaela and her world of problems was born. She hasn’t thanked me for it, either.
I was lounging on the couch doing absolutely nothing useful when the first line of my story Silence began to chant creepily in my brain:
Be afraid of the things that go bump in the night; but be more afraid of the things that make no sound at all.
That one lurked about for a while before I finally figured out what was actually haunting Kieran. Or, well, what might be haunting him.
The fact is, my method of discovery is to start small, as small as a line of dialogue or a picture in my head or a character. From there, I build a story around it until I have the world and the plot.
But the other day, a story konked me on the head (as stories do) and it was a world and a half-baked plot, not a character or a line of dialogue. I had a big picture without the small details. It was, frankly, alarming. That’s now how I do things! I am currently struggling with it (it has the audacity to be science fiction, which I never EVER write) and hopefully it will show up in a later edition of the e-zine.
So I wondered about the rest of you. How have your stories come to you? Do they creep stealthily in and start with a line or a voice or a face? Do they parade grandly across your imagination in a slowly expanding world? Do you see a climactic moment and work backwards to the beginning or do you think of a beginning before you know where it’s headed?
How does your muse work?
Now, some of you are saying, ‘But I don’t write stories!’ or ‘I haven’t had a story idea in ages… what do I do?’
Well, I suppose I can help kickstart a story for you… Just fill in the blanks:
There once was a _______ (girl, boy, yodeling goat named Angelo) who lived in a __________ (magical pink palace, hole in the ground, peach cobbler) and one day he/she decided to _____________ (wrestle a dragon, make a sandwich, kidnap the offspring of the local royal)…
There. I can do no more.
About Melissagenerally in love with things Celtic, mythological, fantastic, sharp and pointy, cute and fuzzy, intellectual, snarky, cheerful, or some combination thereof. Such things as sarcastic bunnies wielding claymores might come to mind...
Posted on March 13, 2012, in Art, Fantasy, Humor, Inspiration, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Melissa Rogers, Photography, Story, World Creation, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged humor, inspiration, scotland, story ideas, storytelling, yodeling goat. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.