Last week I posted about how I’ve been writing more short stories during lockdown. Sometimes I find the trickiest part of writing short stories is coming up with the initial story idea. Often, I find myself thinking up ideas that are too complex or long-winded to fit into a few thousand words. Other times, I’ll come up with an interesting concept or character, but I’ll struggle to create a proper story with an opening, middle and satisfying ending.
Lockdown itself, for me, has provided a lot of writing inspiration. For instance, imagining what lockdown is like from different points-of-view, such as people who are alone, self-isolating, or for people struggling without the routine of work. These ideas have formed the basis for a couple of my short stories, including my recently published ‘A Dog called Rupert’.
The more I write short stories, the more I’m beginning to understand these don’t have to have outlandish, action-packed story lines. They can tell the story of simple things, everyday life, internal struggles, and challenges individuals may face.
In this blog post I’ve explored 10 ways to find short story inspiration. And the good news is, most of these can be used during lockdown.
So, we might not be able to sit in coffee shops anymore to eavesdrop into conversations, but conversations are still happening around us all the time. Next time you’re in a long queue waiting to get into the supermarket, listen to the conversation happening next to you (subtlety!). The short story I’m currently working on was inspired by a rather loud conversation I overheard taking place just outside my house.
Ever wake up in the morning thinking that was a fantastic dream, only to find it slip away from you in seconds? Keep a notepad next to your bed so you can jot down interesting dreams before you forget them! I also find the time spent just before I fall asleep seems to (rather annoyingly) be the time when my brain is best at coming up with new story ideas.
- The News (TV, radio, newspapers)
Watch, listen, or read the news and imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes (whoever the news report is about). This doesn’t always have to be the main headlines. Look out for those little stories in local newspapers.
I’m a huge fan of keeping a journal/ diary. I have one of those five-year ones, and I just love reading back over what I was doing on the same day in previous years. Keeping a journal isn’t only a great way of getting in the habit of writing on a regular basis, it also can be a great source of inspiration.
- Random Word Generators online
These are easy to find with a quick internet search. There are even short story idea generators online, although I don’t personally find these too helpful.
- Old Photographs
Old photographs hold so many stories! I love imagining who the person in the photograph is and what their story is. You can find old photographs online. One of my favourite places to start is to look at old photographs of the area I live and go from there.
- Read like a writer
Reading more will help you to become a better writer and can also help spark new ideas. When you’re reading, think about the plot. Most plots follow a very similar pattern. In fact, there’s an argument there are only really seven basic plots all stories will fall into, these include rags to riches, overcoming a monster and quests.
- Keep an ideas jar
This is something I came across whilst on a creative course in Toronto. It works well with writing groups, but you could do it by yourself too. Jot random words, phrases, ideas for characters on a piece of paper and pop them into a jar. If you’re in a group, you can mix them between yourselves and pick a certain number of pieces of paper each ‘blindfolded’. Put the pieces of paper in a jar. Add new ideas, interesting characters you met, interesting places you visit to the jar as and when. And pick a piece of paper out of your jar when you need a fresh burst of inspiration.
- Just write!
Sit down with a blank piece of paper and a pen, give yourself ten minutes and write continuously. It doesn’t matter if what you’re writing doesn’t make any sense. You could just write, ‘I don’t know what to write’ over and over again. The idea is to let your subconscious flow and hope something that flows out of you that could be turned into a story.
- Talk a walk/ visit a different place
This one is slightly trickier to do during lockdown, and for some may not be possible. But if you’re struggling to come up with a new idea for a story, I find the best way to find inspiration is to visit a new place. For me, historic places are the best. I love imagining all the different people who may have passed through a place over the years.