Where are all the good ideas?

It’s strange. I always say I don’t know how to come up with story ideas for flash fiction, yet I’m writing them almost daily now. I simply sit down to write and something comes to me, or it doesn’t.

I’m trying to subscribe to the school of thought that says ideas are cheap, it’s what you do with them that makes or breaks a story. Logically I believe this, but it’s much harder in practice. One of these days I’m going to have to take a really bad idea and turn it into a good story. If I can do that, then I’ll be a superhero or whatever.

The real super power would be to have the ability to come up with viable story ideas on demand. Sometimes that happens and on those days I feel like Stephen King. Other times I’m just another Margaret Mitchell.

Sometimes prompts work for me. Writing challenges are always good at getting my mind functioning, but I feel like I need more options.

So any other occasional superheroes (or supervillains) out there have tips on how to come up with ideas quickly? Specifically for short stories or flash fiction. Any and all advice is welcome. Don’t make me beg!

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16 comments

  1. Pictures. I use Pinterest and search ‘writing inspiration’ or something along that line. Pictures are my favorite source of writing inspiration and most of my flash fiction has come from looking at a photo.

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  2. If you’re more likely to be inspired by words than by images, try song lyrics. Don’t try to make a story from the entirety of the song or what it’s about, just a single line or maybe two, especially if taken out of context. (My brother is literally unable to imagine — cannot form pictures in his mind — due to a brain injury when he was a kid — but he as a good non-image “imagination” and has created a lot of stories out of music he listens to.)

    I also recommend Pinterest. Do a search there for “writing prompt” and you’ll find hundreds if not thousands I don’t make use of writing prompts myself (I need to get through the backlog of stories I’m already working on first), but I’ve seen some excellent ones on various Pinterest boards (and even pinned several to mine — just because I don’t use them doesn’t mean they aren’t useful to someone else).

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  3. Ideas are all around you. Example: I was walking through a cemetery one bright summer day and I saw a well dressed elderly man walking with purpose through the tombstones carrying a shovel. I stopped to see what he was going to do. Then I realized if I watched it would no doubt be something normal. So I turned away without looking and did the ‘what if’ prompt. It led me to create a short story called “Flowers for Martha Clemens.” There is a middle school writer named David Lubar who has a series of books like “Invasion of the Lawn Weenies” and at the end of the book he tells where he got all his ideas for his stories. In short they are all around you. You don’t even have to think about it.

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    1. That works for me on longer stories. It’s the short ones that I have trouble with. Most of the ideas I get are for novels. A lot of times when I think it’s a good idea for a short, it grows into something bigger. Not the worst problem to have, I admit, but I’ve challenged myself to write more shorts and flash fiction.

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  4. I’m more of a visual person, so pictures work for me a lot. I use tumblr where I save/share the ones I like or the ones that have a potential in them. I use pinterest to share some of them while writing on my blog. Occasionally, a phrase will stick to me (either one I heard or one I came up) and a scene will come to mind. Then a story unfolds, be it short or novel. And of course there’s always the “what if” approach, where I twist everyday phenomena and try to see what would happen to the world. That gives rise to a new setting, one that a story or interesting characters can live in it. I’ve heard some people use some online story generators. I tried it once, but I didn’t like it. I know others prefer creating the characters first and then create the story and the world around them.

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    1. I didn’t like the generators either. I do love the ‘what-if’ approach a lot. As for characters first, that’s only happened for me strongly once before and I think it’s happening right now, although that remains to be seen. The time I came up with a character first and a story grew was the project I should be working on right now, my middle grade novel. More often I will think of great settings and build around that. I want to try everything though. If I’m lucky I’ll have a whole new bag of tricks to choose from soon.

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  5. I always seem to get the most ideas, from all over, when I am working on something else! haha So, I’ve learned to catch them and save them for later. ^-^

    I do seem to get a lot from listening to music, and reading things. Writing prompts and other challenges are always good as well. Once we did an activity where everyone wrote down an opening line for story and a closing line on separate pieces of paper. Then we all drew a random opening line and closing line that we had to use to write a short for our next meeting. That’s how I started my first, and only, horror story. ^-^

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    1. That’s what is happening to me now! I should be working on the middle grade story but instead, I’m doing flash fiction and complaining about it, HA! Now you have me wondering if I could write horror. The flash fiction I wrote yesterday was creepy. not scary, but leaning that way. I’ll add it to the list.

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      1. I actually scared myself and never ended up finishing it. XD But it was interesting to realize that I could do darker things like that if I wanted to. I definitely think it has helped round-out my other work.

        Someday I’ve gotta go back finish that one. ^-^

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  6. Almost there. The Dark patiently waited. Soon now, it would ensnare another, gain more power, and be closer to its goal of complete domination.

    The Dark knew it would eventually prevail, for all writers were the same . . . they furtively looked at the path to the Dark and tried to ignore it, but once glance at, it would draw them in.

    It started with little creepy stories, blossomed into uncomfortable themes, and finally graduated in full-fledged horror. And they would be ensnared forever.

    All writers were the same . . . all writers except that twerp, Disperser. He was never going to write horror. Jerk!

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