Ever find yourself in a creative log jam? Try the following technique excerpted from my StoryWeaver story development software to help regain your inspiration:
Inspiration can come from many sources: a conversation overheard at a coffee shop, a newspaper article, or a personal experience to name a few. And, inspiration can also take many forms: a snippet of dialogue, a bit of action, a clever concept, and so on. One thing most inspiration has in common is that it is not a story, just the beginnings of a story. To develop a complete story, you’ll need a cast of characters, a detailed plot, a thematic argument, and the trappings of genre.
But how do you come up with the extra pieces you need?
In the questions that follow StoryWeaver will help inspire you, even if you can’t come up with an idea to save your life! If you don’t yet know what your story is going to be about, StoryWeaver will help you find out. And if you do have something already worked out, these questions will help you fill in the details.
2. What do you have to start with?
If you already have an idea of what your story is about, describe it briefly in your word processor. Don’t go into great detail at this time, just the key concepts, people, and events. If you don’t yet have a story idea, advance to the next question and StoryWeaver will help you come up with one.
If you are stuck for ideas, it’s probably because you are trying to force yourself to be creative – a situation often referred to as “Writer’s Block.” Fortunately, there is a trick you can use to break through Writer’s Block and get your creativity flowing again! First, write down three nonsense words. Don’t stop to think it over, just jot down the first words that come to mind, as in a word-association test.
Now, imagine that all of your nonsense words are part of the same phrase. How many different stories can you think of that incorporate that phrase? Briefly describe each story idea.
We all try to find meaning in what we see. That is why we identify pictures in inkblots, see faces in wood grain, and animal shapes in clouds. So even when no meaning is intended, our minds can’t help but impose it. By picking words at random, stringing them together and then looking for meaning, we move our minds out of creative block and into analysis mode. In other words, we temporarily shift from creation to interpretation. In so doing, our subconscious automatically creates alternative meanings that fit what we see. Use the Reference button to look at the meanings you just described and what you originally said your story was about (if you answered that question).
5. Combining Meanings
Now, try to incorporate into a single story idea as much as you find interesting from all the different story ideas and your original idea combined.
Of course, some of the meanings you came up with may be completely ridiculous and not useful at all. And, there may be no way to work them all in, yet several ways to include some of your inspirations. If you have several ways to combine these various ideas, list them all. But if you can’t think of any way to bring these ideas together, don’t worry!
The purpose of this exercise is break free of Writer’s Block, and the very process of shifting out of forced creative mode and into analysis mode usually does the trick. So, even if none of the nonsense interpretations are usable in and of themselves, when you return to your original ideas, you’ll probably find whole new inspirations easily come to mind. Whenever you find yourself stuck, return to this method and (more times than not) the ideas will flow again.