Hello everyone! Welcome back to my Writer’s Corner series, where I take you guys step-by-step in my writing process. If you haven’t checked out the first part, then you should check it out here! In this part, I will be going through my brainstorming process step by step.
Ideas can come from anywhere, and I really mean anywhere. I can recall one day when I was sitting in my American Literature class and I was just mindlessly taking notes (as I usually do). My professor was giving us some background information on an author and she mentioned a boarding house. Immediately, this made me think of a short story I read called “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl (which I read for my previous blog post cough cough), and from there my imagination kept running.
What if I had a story completely centered around a boarding house? What if the customers of this boarding house were of the peculiar sort? Or, what if they were of the paranormal sort?
Those are some examples of things that I think of when one idea pops into my head, and it can honestly keep going from there. As I said, ideas can come from anywhere, but sometimes you can’t just sit around and wait for an idea to come to you. Sometimes you have to search for them yourself, so here are some ways to do that!
One of the first things you can do to help get the cogs in your brain running is to look at prompts. The thing that I enjoy about prompts is that they provide a good starting point since they’re usually neither too vague nor too specific, allowing you to really be creative. Here are some sites that provide prompts:
Reedsy: Five new prompts are added to this site weekly, and you are able to submit the story you create into a small contest! This is a good website to use if you want to practice writing more consistently.
DIY MFA: This website offers randomly generated prompts that will give you a character, a situation, a prop, and a setting.
Squibler: Not only does this website provide sentence prompts to get you started, but there is also a challenge that comes with writing on this website. When you stop writing for a certain amount of time, the website starts to delete what you have written as a push to keep you writing nonstop for the amount of time you set.
Music is something that can help spark ideas in your brain as well. Have you ever tried to find songs that would suit the vibes of your story and make a playlist out of them? I certainly have! But have you ever had a song spark an idea before? I had this happen pretty recently after listening to two songs. One was “Skyfall” by Adele, and when I listened to that song, I immediately thought it would be perfect for a fantasy romance story (and I’m a sucker for those if I’m being honest). Take a listen to “Skyfall” and you might see what I mean:
The other song is called “Afraid” by one of my favorite groups, The Neighbourhood.
The lyrics that spoke to me the most are from the chorus, which you guys can read here:
It is clear that this song is about a person who is afraid of being replaced, whether this is occurring in a relationship or maybe a job is not made clear, but that’s what makes this a great creative writing exercise. You can make up a scenario where someone is getting replaced. For me, I came up with a story idea where someone is getting replaced by some creature that is an exact clone of them. That’s a little more on the creepy side, but it gets the point across. It can even be as simple as a character feeling like their best friend is replacing them with someone else, which causes a rift in their friendship.
Just pick a song and see if you can make a story out of it!
In my fiction workshop class, my instructor gave us some creative writing exercises that he thought would help us become stronger writers. In one class, he had us look at the news for that day and instructed us to create a story premise from a headline of our choice. I definitely felt pressure because we were supposed to share our premise with the class, but this method did help create some ideas.
I opened the news app on my phone just now, and was met with this:
Now, I can’t read the full article thanks to not having News+ but you can read that headline like a prompt. Like, why are so many L.A. people moving to this hidden utopia? Why is this a hidden utopia? My mind usually defaults to more mystery or thriller ideas, but I can also see this working as a science fiction prompt as well. But anyways, if you struggle with thinking of ideas, take a look at the news and see if anything comes from that!
Start with a Question
The last thing seems pretty simple, but you can just start by asking yourself a question or multiple questions. One question could be: What story would you like to read? I always hear that you should write the story you want to read and I preach that one hundred percent. How are you going to enjoy writing something if you’re not into it yourself? But since I already knew I wanted to write a horror/thriller story, I wanted to start off with a different question.
What scares me?
The thing I find so intimidating about writing horror stories is that not everyone is afraid of the same things. Is there even something that is universally feared? Maybe or maybe not, but rather than stress myself out with trying to figure out what that universal fear is, I’d prefer to write a story that reflects my own fears. Now, I’m not going to choose a fear of mine that no one can really relate to either. To start off, I just decided to answer the question: What scares me?
When it comes to having to think things out, I prefer to have it visually which is what I did in the photo below!
Now, what exactly did I gain from doing this? Well, first of all, I learned that I might be scared of too many things. Second of all, these fears are all ideas for me to develop or to use as prompts. I can choose two of these fears and combine them to start developing a plot from there. For example, I can take my fear of people and my fear of being alone and try to create a situation from that as pictured below.
Not the most specific situation but hopefully you get the gist of it! From there, you can just get more and more specific by thinking about things like possible settings and how that can change a situation.
Try out one of these methods to see if they help you generate any ideas!
About the Author
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Loraine Garcia is currently a blog editor and writer intern for The Love Yourself Foundation. She is also studying English with a concentration in creative writing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She spends a lot of her time either crying over books, writing, or playing video games.