Exercising the Idea Muscle

Hi Folks,

When I was speaking at a lot of writers’ conferences, attendees often complained of how difficult it is to come up with story ideas.

I knew what they meant. They meant it’s hard to come up with stories that are born whole, beginning, middle and end. Characters, setting, conflict, and resolution.

Yes, it is. But why would you want to do that anyway? More on that later.

So what is a story idea? Actually, it’s only one kind of a story “starter.”

A full story idea is a character with a problem in a setting. That’s it. The problem might or might not even be ‘the’ problem of the story. Doesn’t matter.

As I said, that’s one kind of story starter.

Other story starters mmight be just a line of dialogue or an action that pops into your head.
It might be an odd characteristic of a character’s face (a cauliflower ear, a nose bent sideways, startling eyes).

Or it might be the aforementioned character with a problem in a setting. But it won’t be a story born whole.

The sole purpose of a story starter (or story idea) is to get you to the keyboard.

As I write this, I’m beginning day 5 of a 30-day short-story-a-day challenge.

Yesterday, as part of my growth as a writer, I made a point of coming up with two new story ideas before I called it a day.

I plan to do that every day through the rest of this challenge. Why?

For one thing, coming up with story ideas at the end of a good day of writing is much easier than coming up with even one good story idea in the midst of waking up in the early morning.

It also alleviates the pressure of having to try to come up with something during that groggy hour or so.

For another, coming up with ideas (story starters) is not difficult, but it’s an acquired habit. To do it easily means to do it regularly. So I’m practicing. I’m exercising the idea muscle.

And it works. I actually came up with three story ideas yesterday. But one of them was born whole.

A line popped into my head, followed closely by the POV protagonist, the antagonist, an extra character, the conflict, and the resolution. The whole story.

I tossed it out.

Why? For the same reason I don’t outline novels.

I write first to entertain myself, to see what the characters are going to do and say, and where the story goes. It’s exciting.

If I already know the end, writing the story will bore me. But what’s really important is that if it will bore me, chances are it will bore the reader.

As always, I’m learning as I go. Part of that is acquiring the habit of exercising the idea muscle.

This challenge is the perfect time to acquire a habit like that.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

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1 thought on “Exercising the Idea Muscle”

  1. My dragon story began with the thought of a dragon saying, “How could you bring me a baby? All right, I asked for a baby, but HOW COULD YOU BRING ME A BABY!?!”


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