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The Backward OX
03-29-2010, 06:10 AM
Someone said he finds ideas for stories in such mundane things as a snippet of conversation or a news story or a television commercial.

>>If this also applies to you, can you explain to this dummy how your mind makes the huge leap from, for example, “Boy finds three-legged frog in creek,” to a 90 or 100k story?<<

I mean, I also hear and read these ‘mundane things’, but they rarely, if ever, transform themselves, in my head, into stories. To me, they're mostly just static.

scarletpeaches
03-29-2010, 06:11 AM
I don't write when I know what happens.

I write to find out what happens.

WildScribe
03-29-2010, 06:16 AM
Peaches is right. Write about the boy finding his frog and see what happens. Start with a character, a scene, whatever, and go from there.

Bubastes
03-29-2010, 06:19 AM
What the others said. Take any snippet and start asking questions. "How?" "Why?" and "Then what?" are good ones for starters.

Williebee
03-29-2010, 06:22 AM
“Boy finds three-legged frog in creek,”

Where'd a three legged frog come from? Is this creek downstream from a nuclear plant? Did somebody rescue a frog from the high school lab?

Is it a demon frog and that fourth leg is going to grow another mutant frog, and then chop off it's own leg to grow the next one, bigger?

What's this kid doing hiding down by the creek? And what is he hiding from?

in other words: "Then What?"

Cyia
03-29-2010, 06:24 AM
Try free writing. Make a bullet list.

In about a minute, you should get something like this:


Boy finds 3-legged frog in a creek.
Something must have happened to the frog, but what?
Pollution? Radiation? Genetic manipulation?
That means scientists or big business, so I'll go with the first one.
A scientist is manipulating DNA, trying to clone specific body parts for transplant. - like growing an ear on a rat's back. He managed to make a frog grow an extra leg.
Now, how'd the frog get loose?
Is he smart? Did someone set him loose?
If someone, then who?
A student on a campaign to stop animal experimentation, perhaps.
So... what happened to the student? Surely he noticed something weird was up with the frog.
Maybe the scientist wasn't supposed to be doing experiments like that, and since the student knows about it, he's toast. So... he keeps the student prisoner. Maybe decides to use him as a human test subject.
Now, where's the kid come in? His older sister is the student's girlfriend, who's frantic because she can't find him. They were supposed to meet at the lab to set the animals free in protest, but she was late. When she got there, he was gone, so she assumed he chickened out and left.

scarletpeaches
03-29-2010, 06:24 AM
I think the frog must be related to Blinky in some way.

Kitty Pryde
03-29-2010, 06:25 AM
Just start writing and see what happens:

The frog had three legs. That's two more than me. But he could hop faster than any hopper I'd ever seen. We were gonna be rich.

Toss in a couple of rivals, some meddling parents, a pigtailed love interest, and a cash prize that the protag needs really badly, and the story practically writes itself.

Can I suggest you spend a little time browsing http://tvtropes.org ? It's a good place to explore all the bits and pieces that make up the stories we tell.

Fulk
03-29-2010, 08:43 AM
Can I suggest you spend a little time browsing http://tvtropes.org ? It's a good place to explore all the bits and pieces that make up the stories we tell.

Shame on you for not including the mandatory disclaimer for TVTropes :P :

There is no such thing as "a little time" when it comes to TVTropes, it's merely the unit of time you tell yourself you'll spend browsing it. Hours upon hours will be spent browsing this site, and is not recommended for those with addiction-prone personalities. That said, those hours will be some of the most fun and interesting hours of your life.

dgiharris
03-29-2010, 11:13 AM
My best stories have all come from a single idea or premise, and then I just ask "why" "how" "when" "what" "where"... until I come to the end of the story.

One thing that helps is doing writing exercises.

The writer's group I once belonged to would have exercises where you'd write a story in ten minutes. We'd work from prompts or sometimes we'd have visual aids.

One time the moderator of our group brought in vegetables from her garden.

I took a Tomato and Squash and wrote a quick funny story about a war between the vegetables.

The writing exercises proved vital to stimulating creativity because every meeting, we'd have exactly ten minutes to write something that was a complete surprise. Afterwards, we'd read our stories and it was amazing how creative everyone was. With time, it got easier and easier to just let yourself go and write write write...

Try it

Mel...

c2ckim
03-29-2010, 03:08 PM
Open your mind and let your charactors take over the story and see where it goes. It works for me :)

The Backward OX
03-29-2010, 03:20 PM
Open your mind
Yes, but that was my question - how?

scarletpeaches
03-29-2010, 03:22 PM
With a meathook.

Mr Flibble
03-29-2010, 03:24 PM
Yes, but that was my question - how?


Or in a slightly less bloody manner, just speculate on the possibilities. Ask 'what if' until something goes PING! Hopefully it won't be a blood vessel.

dpaterso
03-29-2010, 03:26 PM
Yes, but that was my question - how?
Doesn't look as if you're connecting with any of the answers given above, but they are the right answers. You need to let one thought kick off another, while asking yourself, "What's the most interesting thing that could happen next?"

Also, don't stare at your screen hoping ideas will jump out at you, that can lead to frustration. Mine usually come to me when I'm washing the dishes or other trivial/mundane jobs.

-Derek

Cyia
03-29-2010, 03:43 PM
Yes, but that was my question - how?

:Headbang::Headbang::Headbang::Headbang::Headbang: :Headbang::Headbang::Headbang::Headbang::Headbang: :Headbang::Headbang::Headbang::Headbang::Headbang: :Headbang::Headbang::Headbang::Headbang::Headbang: :Headbang::Headbang::Headbang::Headbang::Headbang:

Okay, let's try this again.

Put yourself in the boy's position. What would you do if you found a 3-legged frog in a pond? What would you think? Would you wonder how it got 3 legs? If the answer is no (or "I'd whack it with a stick") then maybe you need another prompt.

sheadakota
03-29-2010, 04:20 PM
What if? Take that question and run with it-

Jamesaritchie
03-29-2010, 05:19 PM
All an idea has to do is generate a problem or a question. The story is how you solve teh problem or answer the question. Begin teh story with a problem and/or a question, and teh story generated is there simply to solve the problem, and/or answer the question.

Birol
03-29-2010, 05:26 PM
I find ideas in snippets of conversation all the time. Often conversations I'm having. It helps that my friends aren't quite normal.

shaldna
03-29-2010, 05:29 PM
Ask yourself questions around it. Play the what if game.

Bubastes
03-29-2010, 05:30 PM
I mean, I also hear and read these ‘mundane things’, but they rarely, if ever, transform themselves, in my head, into stories. To me, they're mostly just static.

Okay, I might as well start with a basic question: do you consider yourself a curious or nosy person? If not, that's the problem right there (IMO).

jodiodi
03-29-2010, 07:37 PM
Anything can spark a story idea as long as you let your imagination ask the questions of "How, Why and What If".

For example:

I'm sitting here at my dining room table with the double doors to the deck open. The sun is shining and it's a beautiful day. There's a rumbling vehicle sound somewhere nearby. It started out of nowhere. Is it my neighbor? Is it someone who visited my neighbor and perhaps killed her and is now stripping the gears trying to get away before her husband comes home for lunch? Why did they choose her? Was she living a double life: on the one hand a typical housewife with a garden and yappy dog; on the other, a former drug mule now living in the witness protection program and her cover's been blown? Speaking of the yappy dog, why isn't Patches barking? He barks at EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. These intruders must be known to him. Even if they 'silenced' him, he'd have made noise before they could do it. Or is Patches a HellHound who ripped the throats out of the intruders before they could make a sound? Is my neighbor a Demoness and Patches her Familiar?

I could go on and on and on, but, hopefully, you get the idea ...

Cyia
03-29-2010, 07:39 PM
Jodi lives in a scary neighborhood.

thehairymob
03-29-2010, 07:56 PM
I get the spark of an idea and before I know it there's a disjointed story trying to get out. Often I write a few lines so as not to forget the idea because I working on something else. But the thing I usually find is the story is there in my head, all the key points, all I have to do is weave the tale in words. Then go over it to flesh out some parts. As I write though there are times when the tale I'm putting to paper changes slightly to create a subplot. I have yet to find that my tales don't end as I see them at first but there is usually a lot more to them than I first envisioned.

CaroGirl
03-29-2010, 08:07 PM
In journalism, we ask: who, what, where, when, why and how. Okay...and, GO!

Phaeal
03-29-2010, 09:05 PM
You also need to recognize that it may take a while for an idea to develop into a story. I put any interesting tidbit that MIGHT become a story into my plot bunny notebook. Whenever I get more notions about a particular idea, I add them to that page. Every now and then, I read through the notebook to see if anything's clamoring to advance to the freewritten outline stage.

Very often an idea doesn't advance until it merges with one or more other ideas. Very often an idea doesn't catch fire until I find the right characters or settings, plot twists or even images to spark it out of its fascinating but inert state.

I think I'm counseling patience here. ;)

jodiodi
03-29-2010, 10:39 PM
Jodi lives in a scary neighborhood.

And it looks so mundane on the surface. :evil

Though we're only a mile or so away from the suburbs, it's quiet and we have a very large back yard and an empty pasture across the road in front of the house. We have a magnolia tree in the front yard and a weeping willow, a dogwood and multiple unidentified trees (which have lovely foliagei in the fall) in the back yard.

It's almost idyllic.

It's the perfect setting for a grusome, grisly horror story. ;)

Phaeal
03-30-2010, 12:04 AM
Willows are evil. They will eat you.

The Backward OX
03-30-2010, 12:48 PM
Okay, I might as well start with a basic question: do you consider yourself a curious or nosy person? If not, that's the problem right there (IMO).

Thatís opening a whole new can of worms, isnít it? I wasn't sure, so asked my partner, who said, ďNo, definitely not.Ē

Are you saying a writer needs to be a curious type?

aadams73
03-30-2010, 01:16 PM
Are you saying a writer needs to be a curious type?

Yes, I believe so.

Cyia
03-30-2010, 03:00 PM
If you're not curious about something, then why do you want to write about it?

If you want to write to inform, then maybe you could try non-fiction.

If you want to write to entertain and tell stories, which is what I'd assume from your OP, you MUST have a natural curiosity. Without curiosity, you won't care to learn about your characters or their lives and struggles. If you don't care about them, then you can't expect a reader to, either.

You have to anticipate what a reader will want to know about a given character/situation and make sure those questions have answers.

The Backward OX
03-30-2010, 04:17 PM
If you want to write to entertain and tell stories . . . you MUST have a natural curiosity.

Are you sure?

Birol
03-30-2010, 04:32 PM
Let's flip this. 1) Where have you, until now, come up with your ideas? 2) Why do you believe you you don't need a curiosity -- a desire to know or understand more -- in order to write?

Cyia
03-30-2010, 04:53 PM
Are you sure?

Yes.

Jamesaritchie
03-30-2010, 05:01 PM
If you're not curious about something, then why do you want to write about it?

.

For the money.

The Backward OX
03-30-2010, 05:48 PM
Let's flip this. 1) Where have you, until now, come up with your ideas? 2) Why do you believe you you don't need a curiosity -- a desire to know or understand more -- in order to write?

I take something from life and fictionalise it. My response was mostly to Cyiaís comment that without curiosity I wonít care to learn (whatever that means) about my characters. I donít care about my characters. Iím certainly curious enough to do research about the things they get up to (how to shoe a horse or fly a plane or bake a cake for example) but Iím not curious about them as people.

Bubastes
03-30-2010, 05:51 PM
If you don't care about your characters, then why should a reader care?

ETA: maybe you'd be better off writing non-fiction?

The Backward OX
03-30-2010, 06:32 PM
If you don't care about your characters, then why should a reader care?


I keep reading a lot on the subject of readers caring about characters. Well, Iím a reader too, and I donít particularly care about any of the characters I read about. Theyíre just characters in a story. Words on a page. I've polled this question with two others IRL and they support me.

Phaeal
03-30-2010, 06:54 PM
Facades painted on plywood and filmed only from the front worked well enough in old-time Hollywood. But I can see the difference in movies made on location, with real buildings to film from as many angles as the camera can contort itself into.

You can get by with less. But the great thing about writing is, your budget isn't cash, it's the time and effort you're willing to invest.

That said, the success of certain books proves that rich characterization isn't necessary. Some might walk farther into the morass of controversy and say that for those books, rich characterization might even get in the way.

For me, a plot-heavy book with flat characters may be okay. The same book with well-crafted, multidimensional characters could cross the line into great.

mscelina
03-30-2010, 08:17 PM
Then you've missed the whole point of writing. You cannot entertain your readers if they don't care about your characters--which means you have to care about them first. If you're not curious enough to make an emotional investment in your writing then no one else will either. At that point, it doesn't matter how technically well you write--you could be writing the ingredients list on the back of a cereal box for all that it matters.

*shrug*

If you can't get curious enough about your characters and the conflict/resolution you develop for them, you should probably find another outlet for your energies other than writing. With as many rejections as I've received from agents and publishers with the fateful line, "I just didn't connect with your characters as much as I'd hoped to" in it, I can guarantee you that writing without caring is nothing but a waste of your time and anyone you might submit to in the future.

You can ignore all the good advice in this thread if you want--no one can prevent you from doing that. But I can guarantee you this--out of all the submissions I've received lately, I've contracted exactly three stories--less than 1 %--and those stories are the ones where I gave a rat's ass about what happened to the characters.

jodiodi
03-30-2010, 08:18 PM
I agree with the suggestion that non-fiction may be your best route. You're documenting facts. Hopefully, you can make those facts interesting rather than a simple recitation of A=B-C+D.

If you're not interested in characters and see them simply as a means to an end, then textbook writing could be an option.

Still, no matter what you ultimately decide to do, without something interesting to write, it's not worth the effort. Either make it entertaining or dry.

thehairymob
03-30-2010, 08:28 PM
I feel I know my charcters and though I try to let the reader get to know them I don't think they will ever know them as well as myself. Even after I finish writing a story I find I can still picture them in my head sometimes better than real people I know. I must be mad as my family always told me I was when I was growing up, maybe they should have locked me in the nuthouse after all. :D

BenPanced
03-30-2010, 08:42 PM
Thatís opening a whole new can of worms, isnít it? I wasn't sure, so asked my partner, who said, ďNo, definitely not.Ē

Are you saying a writer needs to be a curious type?
Yes, a writer has to be curious, both for fiction and non-fiction. A writer needs to have a desire to understand what makes the world around them move, tick, and evolve.