About a week ago I was emailing a writing friend of mine who was having trouble generating story ideas. That got me to thinking about something I wrote on this topic a while back, and I want to revisit it because I think it’s one of the strongest things any writer can do.
This conversation we had puts me in mind of a story I toyed with years and years ago but was never able to make it come together. I was attending a pool party one weekend and the host and hostess (who were both over 50) had a baby. One of my friends said, “I don’t think that’s their baby” but I knew it was and they laughed and said, yes, “God played a trick on us.”
But as a writer I got to thinking. Where’s the story potential in something like this? On the face of it this is a yawner. They had a young daughter, maybe she was 14 or 15, I can’t remember. But what if that baby was HER baby and thy parents were pretending it was theirs to protect her, or whatever….especially if she had been raped by someone maybe…especially if the father of her baby was HER father.
So there you have it. An innocent and happy experience I had at a pool party degenerated into something dark and depraved. Hooray! I was a happy writer with a brand new idea.
So, how to write the story?
I thought about this father being a government official and he takes in a spy who is resting up after a tough mission and the reader the spy’s eyes, discover the secret. Then I thought it could also be written from the daughter’s POV, which would be better, with her taking care of what is ostensibly the parents’ baby while the party is going on.
The theme of the story would be how we all wear masks to hide our true selves from others.
I tried several starts at this story. It never came together. So I moved on to other ideas and other stories.
But this conversation I had with my writer friend also got me to thinking about how sometimes I scare myself with my own imagination. Sometimes my own imagination is my own worst enemy.
There have been times I have imagined something happening to people I know that just scares me so much it feels like I am on an abyss. Now, I know intellectually these things aren’t going to happen. But that doesn’t mean my imagination takes a holiday.
So, not to make this all about me, but my point being with is when you think of one idea it can lead to something else, which leads to something else, etc.
I can’t tell you how often meet people who want to write say they have a story idea and they tell it to me and there’s nothing else to go on. It’s just one idea.
You may not think that’s much to quibble about, but I’m telling you as a professional seeing how you can take one idea, and elaborate on it and use that to generate something else, trust me on this…that’s a pretty important tool in your toolbox.
Find what makes you uncomfortable. Always. Discover what you want to say about that idea and how you need to tell the story.
Use your imagination. Scare yourself.
You can thank me later. Or blame me. For writers, this is also a win-win. 🙂