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How To: Write The Perfect Story


Do you love telling stories? No matter if your style of choice is short stories or long fiction, your writing will only go as far as your ideas. Without story ideas, there simply is no story. But where to locate these all-important ideas to keep your keyboard busy and your creativity flowing? Read on to find out.

Before there is a story, there needs to be an idea. Whether it’s something fleeting and vague, like an intriguing but isolated sentence, or something more elaborate, like a potential ending scene, ideas come in all shapes and sizes. When the wellspring of ideas runs dry, writers are left suffering from writers’ block, feeling blank and stuck.

Ideas are Everywhere

But there’s really no reason to feel this way. Because ideas are absolutely everywhere. As Stephen King, a highly prolific author, says on his website:

“I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it’s seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question ‘What if?’ ‘What if’ is always the key question.”

Author Neil Gaiman writes in his essay about ideas, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”

Neil Gaiman's "Sandman: The Dream Hunters"

The surefire way to always be brimming with ideas is to catch them as you go along with your everyday life. Open your mind to the flow of ideas and the spark of creativity that lives in even the most mundane of activities. You can find several of them swimming around even in your morning coffee cup, if you look carefully enough. Maybe one of your characters could be addicted to coffee, or maybe hate it with all of her guts. Maybe she could work in a coffee shop. Maybe she could spill the coffee and discover something surprising under the dishwasher while cleaning up the mess. Or, think bigger. How and where is coffee grown and harvested? Could there be a story there?

Simple and Silly? Go for It!

All of these are simple and perhaps silly examples, but don’t be afraid of simple or silly. The only way to get good at something is to practice at it. Train your mind to see ideas everywhere, and it will. Letting go of that nagging inner critic that tells us all our ideas must be grand and spectacular is a crucial step toward freeing your creativity.

The Art of the Steal

While ideas are everywhere, a fantastic source of ideas is other people’s work. Now, I’m not advocating plagiarism, but you would be hard pressed to find a writer (or painter, or musician, or movie-maker) who isn’t inspired by other people’s work. This is one reason why reading is crucial for writers: not only does it increase your vocabulary and help your own writing flow more smoothly, other people’s stories are wonderful inspiration for your own.

Inspiration from beautiful books

The key is becoming inspired in your own way. Few of us would attempt to steal other people’s storylines or characters as they are, and for good reason. But other people’s stories can ignite that spark in our minds that lead us to new questions and ideas that are catalysts for our original stories. People will be surprised if you reveal the source of your inspiration: you will have taken the inspiration and transformed it into something uniquely yours.

Overflowing with Ideas? Write them Down!

Becoming aware of the ideas that surround us every day is well and good, but in order to maximize your idea power, you have to catch those ideas. This means you need to get them down. Even if your idea seems unforgettable as you first dream it up, chances are it will be gone by the end of the day. This is particularly true for the little ideas that pop up along the way: lines of dialogue, an expression, a physical feature for a character. The simplest way to catch these ideas, of course, is to keep a notebook around. The notebook doesn’t need to be fancy; all you need is paper and a pen. The most important thing is to keep is accessible, so that you won’t need to search around when the idea comes to you. Otherwise you might be tempted to rely on your memory to hold it, the chances of which will become lower and lower as your mind learns to fill up with several ideas each day.

Here’s an Idea

The good news is that the world overflows with ideas, no matter how mundane our lives might feel sometimes. We don’t need to scale mountainsides or solve crimes to be inspired. All we really need is a mind open to all the possibilities and impossibilities of life. After all, anything is possible when you sit down to write your story. And that’s where the challenge comes in. Ideas are everywhere, but after they have arrived, you must be willing to sit down to write and turn those sparks of creativity into something real.

So discover the stories that hide in all the nooks and crannies of our lives, catch them in your notebook  – then write!

Your turn.


2 comments on “How To: Write The Perfect Story

  1. blueghoul
    July 25, 2011

    That’s a wonderful post. It’s just sort of an imaginative, somehow sweet, simple way to phrase it all. Ideas really are everywhere. You just have to find them. Find inspiration within others’ work. Feel free to be silly. No restraints. Just…writing at its best. It’s amazing. It’s also one brilliant way to break writer’s block–just to be open to ideas, to find them in even the simplest of tasks, like right in your cup of coffee. It’s all just so…bright, this entire post, the pictures, the formatting, the fonts, and especially the words. Lovely.

  2. Pingback: Writing Samples « Writer's Portfolio

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