Friday, October 7, 2011

Ideas for Stories

I attended a writing conference today at a university near my home. Dan Wells was the keynote speaker; author of I Am Not a Serial Killer; Mr. Monster; I Don't Want To Kill You; and to-be-released in 2012, Partials

He spoke about how authors get their ideas. Dan said, "It's not about ideas, it's about turning ideas into stories."

I'm going to let you in on his secret to getting ideasall the time! You need to Pay Attention! 

Simple, right? Right! Anything, even the ring on your finger or a piece of peppermint candy can inspire you. Look everywhere for your ideas, if it be on the History channel, a dog barking outside, or the bowl of soup I'm eating even though it's getting too cold. 

Dan taught us to take something normal and combine it with something strange to develop it into an idea for a story. 

For example: a pocket watch and a crazed chicken.

Here's what I came up with:

A teenage farm boy finds an old pocket watch in pristine condition under his bedroom floor boards. When he picks it up, he hears it ticking; no, clucking loudly. He stuffs it in his pocket thinking its cool. As he works on the farm the next day, the chickens appear to be going crazy, practically biting each others heads off. And they are growing bigger at an alarming rate. He takes his family to hide, fearing they will be killed. Over the next months, the world is taken over by these huge chickens. No longer is chicken the poultry of choice, but humans are. It's not until the boy realizes the pocket watch was the catalyst for the chickens dominating the world that he destroys the watch. The chickens die instantly, leaving the world free from their reign of terror.  

Now, it's your turn to practice. Comment with an idea using the example above. Let's see what awesome ideas spring to mind.   


  1. You were there and we didn't meet?! Blast! I agree that his keynote was really good.

    I wonder how many agents are going to get stories with dogs who have radioactive saliva...

  2. Seriously! Why didn't we see each other. That would have been super duper awesome! Darn it! Thanks for the comment! Dog's with radioactive slobber books would rock. haha

  3. I keep up with his podcast and get all kinds of insight into writing from it.

  4. Using the "dog barking outside" example:

    How about a story in which a dog barks outside every night at exactly midnight. There is a neighbor who hates that dog because the dog keeps him up at night. So, eventually, the neighbor gets rid of the dog somehow. ...Then after getting rid of the dog, the neighbor dies. It turns out that there is a ghost that comes at midnight to try to kill the neighbor every night at midnight, but the dog scares away the ghost with its barking. Now that the barking dog is gone, the ghost comes and kills the neighbor.

    So that is the idea I got from that example.

    Also, can someone send me a link to that podcast you mentioned. I want to listen to some writing insights too.

  5. Rob - I'll have to check out the podcast. Thanks!

    John: Love your idea! Such a great twist there at the end. Great job!
    BTW - here's the podcast info from my follower, Rob:

    Have a great day!