Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Asking Questions and Generating Ideas

Writers want to tell an interesting and engaging story.  This isn’t an easy task, either.  We’re each one out of thousands of story-tellers, and it seems every possible idea has been done in some form or another.  This can make writing our own stories seem daunting.  Even futile.  I should know, because I’ve struggled with this insecurity before.

Speculative fiction gives us the advantage of opening up the possibilities.  The universe is vast.  There are so many things to see and do that humans have yet to discover, and this is an exciting fact.  This doesn’t mean, however, that the story ideas always come easily.  They frequently don’t.  There are, however, plenty of ways to defeat writers block.  I’ve used these methods myself.

Next time you’re watching a film, ask yourself questions. 
How could things have happened differently?  What if a character missed their flight and couldn’t make it to the important meeting?  What if the protagonist saw through the antagonist’s lies and decided to try to beat them at their own game.  Asking these kinds of questions regarding stories you love help get you thinking like a writer.  Plus, the urge you may occasionally feel to yell at the screen when a character does something stupid can be harnessed for good use.  That’s a great thing, if you ask me.

You can also ask friends to give you tidbits of plot.  Ask one friend for a character or two.  Ask another for a setting.  Ask a third to give you an inciting incident to kick the story into motion.  Ask someone else for another incident to send events into a new and interesting direction.  Use these things to create a story idea.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

Character #1: Female, age 35, doctor
Character #2: Male, age 20, mechanic
Setting: spaceship, passenger liner, carrying 20,000 people, currently in orbit around Earth
Inciting Incident: A bizarre space anomaly is spotted, and it’s heading straight for Earth.

From this setup, questions naturally arise.  How should they respond to seeing the anomaly?  What is it?  What will happen if it reaches Earth?  Will the world be destroyed, or will it be changed in some strange way?  Should the spaceship stay and try to help if things go awry?  Should they flee to protect the 20,000 people onboard?  The story could go in so many different directions.  What role will our main characters play in all this?  They won’t be the ones making the final decision about whether the ship stays or goes, but they’ll certainly have plenty to do when trouble strikes.

The idea may ultimately be terrible.  It might also be brilliant.  In either case, it’ll get your brain thinking creatively, and that’s the most important part of all this.