Monday, April 09, 2012

Generating Story Ideas #3

by James Duckett

Generating Story Ideas #1
Generating Story Ideas #2

There are many ways to find inspiration for a story or add to the one you are working on. Today I invite you to examine the media for ideas.

Read Magazines

It doesn't need to be fiction magazines or stories from your genre. Read non-fiction magazines to search out new ideas. To use as an example, I went over to Time Magazine and looked at a couple of their tech articles to find ideas. One article was on the new Google augmented-reality glasses project.

It got me thinking, what about the next stage? Contacts are obviously going to be next. Soon people with perfect vision will be wearing Google contacts. Then I thought about one more step, where the augmented-reality is tied directly into the eyeball. And I thought of a story where some guy has this and gets a bad firmware upgrade. All sort of things could happen.

Then I took it two steps further. What if there is an eyeball replacement and it is sponsored by Google? And Google not only augments reality with what they want us to see (ie, look in the sky and know what the weather will be) but it also blocks out items that are not sponsored or created by Google. So our MC has a girlfriend who has a similar eyeball but it is made by IBM (no, no, no... I've got it... the Apple... wait for it... iBall!) and the Google Eyeball blocks the ability to see his girlfriend.

Oh, I think this could go places! I think I'll tuck this one away in my story idea folder to use some other time. This also has dystopia written all over it, if it is the government who makes the eyeball. Anyways, reading an online article inspired all of this.

Listen to Music

Last year at LDS Story Makers I took a class from Karen Hoover on this very topic, generating story ideas. One of her ideas was to listen to music. She played a couple of new-age songs and we all sat back with our eyes closed thinking where the music could lead us.
I must admit, this didn't do anything for me, but I might not have the ear for this type of inspiration. But when we opened our eyes and shared what had come to mind a lot of people had seemed inspired with an impression or an idea.

Watch Commercials

This could be an idea to make commercial breaks a little more interesting. A commercial will often tell a story in about thirty seconds. Take a person you just saw in the commercial and now imagine him or her and how their life is like when the camera isn't focused on them. When they are finished being amazed by the new toilet bowl cleaner how are they really? Or do they get really excited when visitors come over because of the cleanliness of their toilet bowl. It could be an idea for a character in your story, at least.

Look at Photos of People

This goes along with my idea last week to do some people watching and my post two weeks ago on asking questions. Visit flickr and just look at photos of people. Just a glance over there and I saw a picture of an old couple walking together, lovingly hand-in-hand. What is their story? How did they meet? What challenges did they have to overcome in order to find this kind of happiness?

I saw another person being handed an award for "Young Person of the Year." It made me wonder what his story was. He looked like a nice young man, but what could he have done to attract the honor of being the young person of the year? Could you imagine the hand-off of this reward being the end of an adventurous story? Can you see the hook at the beginning of the story where the protagonist is anything BUT the young person of the year? Can you see the character arc that this story could potentially hold?

Watch Music Videos on Youtube

This time I flipped over to Youtube to see if anything caught my attention. I just searched for "Music Video" and found one that stood out. It is called "Friend Zone" by Your Favorite Martian. I've never heard of the group (something tells me I'll get some hate-mail for that statement) so I thought it would be a good video to find inspiration.
I don't write romance, though I do want some romantic elements in my stories. Anyways, I never thought to have a protagonist who is friend-zoned by somebody he cares about. I don't know why I never thought about this, since it is in all the movies and it sums up my life in high school, but this seemed like a great video for inspiring entire scenes in a book.

Watch TED

TED is an online television show where people come on and share intellectual ideas. It is very educational and if you haven't been there I would recommend you pop on over and spend a little time. The nice thing is that the videos are generally very short (much shorter than a collegiate lecture) so it doesn't take long to get through one.

Another example: I was watching a video of a guy talking about 3D printers, and how (and why) he created the smallest one of them. For those who don't know what a 3D printer is, it is a printer that can create a 3D solid object. Some people think it could revolutionize engineering of products. Need a part? Don't order it and wait for it to come in, just go and print it on your 3D printer.

This isn't a completely new idea. Have you seen Star Trek: The Next Generation? They had something called a Food Replicator where you asked for some food (any food) and it basically 3D printed it for you. Have you noticed how many things in Star Trek have become, or are becoming, reality? I digress...

But what if we could do this with body parts? What if, and here is the stretch, we could do it with an entire body! You take a 'picture' of yourself at a certain age (I'm thinking 18) and you can transfer your memories into it when you start feeling Father Time creeping up behind you. Orson Scott Card did something like this in his short story Fat Farm where he explored what happened to the old body after the consciousness is copied into the new body.

Now what if the technology existed so that you could transfer into any body that you want. Basically, when you want a new look, you go down to your local body shop and pick out a new one. Tired of looking like Tom Cruise? Maybe it is time to try on a little Ashton Kutcher. Or, heck, I'm a guy but what if I wanted to try something new and I try on a Jessica Alba body? What would my life be like after I pried myself away from the mirror?

Anyways, I think I'll stop before this extends past the PG rated.

Homework Assignment

Are you looking for an idea? Take half an hour and do one (or more) of these. Look at all forms of media around you. Pay more attention while watching television or surfing the Internet. Most important, as I had stated in the first of this series, keep asking questions!


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mrsmomx6 said...

What a great idea! Or several great ideas...

I'm actually suffering from writer's block right now!

Think I'll go watch some tv, wait for a commercial to catch my eye :)


bewitched in salem said...

An author friend of mine lives and breathes absorption 24/7. Sometimes he swings by our store to hang and have a tea.

The whole time he's around he's tearing this and that out of various mags & papers, snapping pictures, talking with our customers. Most people think he's an employee.

I haven't met anyone to date, that is as inspired by life as Steve.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Interesting! I'd never heard of TED.