Nine Places to Find Great Story Ideas

Have you run out of great story ideas? Are your characters stereotypical and stale? If so, don’t cry like the guy pictured above. Venture out into the world and see how people are behaving in the 21st century? No need to visit exotic or expensive places. Ideas can be found anywhere. Here are nine places to find great ideas for writing your next story or scene.

Go for a walk in the park

There are coyotes in the woods surrounding the walking path near my house. Suppose one of your characters ran into a hurt baby coyote while he or she was out walking on the wooded trail. He stops to help it and a pack of adult coyotes chance upon this scene. What miracle will save your character? Ah-h-h, your thoughts are spinning! You’ve just come up with an idea for writing a great story.

There’s a very pretty girl who jogs along that same path each day. As she runs, she doesn’t look to the right or the left, but holds her Ipod straight out in front of her and jogs in a strangely upright position. Who is she? Maybe she’s from Ethiopia. Perhaps she trained in high altitudes and when she came to live in the U. S., she easily won a series of marathons and made a name for herself. Has she retired from competition? Is she married … in love? What does she do now?

Visit your local health club or gym 

I photographed two women wearing ankle-length skirts as they walked around the indoor walking track at my health club. They walked slowly as if they were out for a Sunday stroll. Around them, members walked briskly, sprinted, or jogged, while these women talked, very animatedly, to each other. Are those long skirts their workout clothes? Will they change back into street clothes when their workout is done?

Many religions ban women from wearing pants. Was this a religious practice or a cult practice like the Jonestown religion in Guyana? Is one of the women planning to make a break for it? Sounds like a great story idea.

Sit in the emergency room of your local hospital

The John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County is a public urban teaching hospital in Chicago. It’s free and you will see many nationalities in the waiting room. The patients know that unless it is life or death, it will take hours, usually all day, before they get to see a doctor or receive a prescription. If the parents can’t afford a babysitter, they may bring the entire family, as well as sandwiches, music, and games.

I’ve seen some real carnivals at the county hospital. Nationalities sit together or close by each other, if possible, and speak in their various languages. Children run and play. I’ve even seen soliciting, albeit, in a quiet and careful way. Why was the soliciting female so desperate? Where will she conduct her business? This idea would make for an informative piece.

Writing YA? Volunteer at your local high school 

Do you want your young adult novel to ring true? You might have an awesome plot, but if you don’t write the lingo, your story may not connect with teens. You say that you have teenagers! I bet they’re not going to behave around you the way they do at school. If you really want to know how preteens and teens behave, you need to spend some time immersed in their culture. Volunteer to monitor the school cafeteria. You’ll capture their totally uninhibited behaviors. Peek into the school library and see what they’re reading … or not. Share one of your short stories with an English class and find out what they think.

Hang out in the lobby of a rock concert hall during Intermission

When I was very young, my friends and I followed Patti Labelle. She was part of a girl group named Labelle (I Sold My Heart to the Junkman, Lady Marmalade). At her concerts, fans would dress in costumes and the LGBT community would dress in drag. I once followed a group of nuns into the men’s room. Imagine my surprise when one of the nuns, bearded, turned and said, “you’re in the wrong place, sister!”

I accompanied my daughters to a Beyonce concert a few years ago. The lobby was abuzz with fans bartering for t-shirts, posters, and in tears because they were breathing the same air as Beyonce. One guy sat in the front row, distracted and seemingly bored by it all. He refused to smile, sing, or even look at Beyonce. Was he a security plant? Or, was he a Beyonce hater? A tossed away lover? It’s no longer Beyonce’s concert. It’s your super star’s story. You decide.

Four More Ways to Find Great Story Ideas

  • Stroll through an outdoor or indoor shopping mall
  • Try a Saturday morning flea market
  • Go to a skating rink or bowling alley
  • Visit an all-you-can-eat restaurant

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Educator, Author, Blogger, and supporter of Independent Writers. One mystery novel, The Neon Houses, Find me on Twitter @boom_lyn.

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