Something that you have to do as an author is come up with story ideas: on time, on certain subjects, about 80% as expected and 20% new and fresh, and to fit with the rest of your work.
But what’s even more difficult are the requirements left unsaid:
- The idea has to generate a story that is neither longer nor shorter than the intended length of the work.
- You have to have a personal connection to the idea.
- The idea has to be translatable into a story with a strong setting, characters, and action that extend beyond the idea itself.
- The idea can’t be something that the logical readers for that story will hate.
If you generate enough bad story ideas, you will eventually just generate a story idea that meets the expectations. If you write enough stories, you’ll eventually write a story of the correct length and quality, too. There are techniques to help make all this more efficient, of course, so you don’t have to write a million words just to get a 3,000-word short story down on paper. But random ideas and a lot of writing will, eventually, do.
The trick actually seems to be in finding a personal connection with any given story idea.
I’ve written stories that fit all the requirements but seem like someone else wrote them when they were done. Or I’ll get a quarter of the way through a story and come to a dead stop. This isn’t my story, someone else tell the damned thing.
I thought for a long time that you had to search desperately for story ideas that “connected” with your soul, or something. Is this “my” idea?
However, finding a connection to a story is a process like any other: what about this story idea is like my life? what about this story idea do I feel passionately about? have I had strong dreams that are like this idea?
You just have to feel a connection to your story. Doesn’t matter what it is. You don’t even have to know what it is. If you don’t feel it, nose around until you feel something. Or ditch the idea and find one that you feel more strongly about.
It doesn’t matter where you get your ideas, what they are, or that you feel good about a story as you write it. Just that you feel something about it.
That’s what makes you finish a story. And, when tempered by craft, that’s what makes it worth reading.
Anthology story that you’re stuck on? Feel something. Trying to decide whether to write to market or not write to market? Feel something. Stuck in the middle of a passion project that’s gone dry? Feel something.
Have an opinion and emotions about the content of your story.
Have your own personal point of view.
I wrote this as a reminder to myself as I’m sitting down to write a story for an anthology and am stuck on it. Mutter mutter… Anyway, please sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t yet. You get a free story, and in every issue there’s a terrible pun, some random book recommendations, updates on what I’m working on (ghostwritten and personal), and an article or short piece of writing that you get ahead of everyone else. I think next month’s is going to be a poem about a hilarious bird call I heard out on Chatfield Reservoir. Click here to sign up.