Good story, or just a good idea?
I consider myself very lucky when it comes to inspiration. On any given week, I’ll be struck with 10-15 ideas for fiction begging to be written. I’m happy to say that my notebook is now filled with enough stories that it would take me two or three years to write them all. Now, before you think I’m boasting, I’ll tell you that the process wasn’t always this easy for me.
I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen. However, I wasn’t able to concieve a single worthwhile story to tell until I was about 28 years old. At that point, I wrote my first novel (which is still sitting in first draft in dire need of a rewrite) and then went stagnant for another two years. Luckily, when I turned thirty, my inner storyteller blossomed and started feeding me an endless stream of stories.
Not all of my ideas are good, of course. More importantly, not all of my ideas are stories. Sometimes an idea is just an interesting character or a factor of the environment. When these elements hit you, the key is to write them down and save them for future use…or if you want to put them to use, brainstorm around them.
Say you have a character idea that pops into your brain and you think “holy crap, this guy needs a story.” The next thought in your head should always be CONFLICT.
Conflict is everything. Conflict is story. So you have a great character…now who hates him? Who wants to stop him? What is he afraid of and how can you make him face that fear? If you can answer those questions in a way that’s as interesting as the character himself, then you have the start of a story.
Remember, if you’re having a hard time getting inspiration for your own stories, I highly recommend reading outside of your comfort zone. As I’ve said before, I force myself to read Grimm’s Fairy Tales on a regular basis because I can’t get through five pages without coming up with one or two good story ideas.