on writing, the art of the written word

5 Damn swell ways to come up with a topic for your story

Photo: Death to the Stock Photo

Everything begins with a topic. Remember those papers you wrote in school? The teacher would being by saying, “Now pick a topic…”

Sometimes it comes down to personal interest or experience. What do you know? You may want to share to the world what you know. Sometimes, a grand idea may hit you like lightning.

Let’s dig in to how you can take your topic idea further, or if you’re having the hardest time to come up with one:

Chicken or the egg? Topic or the genre?

Which comes first? Or, which one should you focus on first? If you love romance or paranormal, you may be trying to limit yourself into a box. Forget the genre altogether and start thinking about what you can write about. You may even write something that creates a whole new genre or sub-genre. At this stage, forget about labels.

Come on baby, light your writing fire

What gets your writing motivation going? Is there something from experience you want to share? Are their lessons or different perspectives of a situation that you can explain differently? This can be a starting point to get the story rolling. It doesn’t have to be the entire basis of the story, but once you’re rolling out pages, you may craft something different that your topic helped shape.

Another thought: What is one book you wish you would read? That one book you have not seen on the shelves yet. Start there, champ.

Brain Downpour

Time to get thinking and get creative, love. Begin with listing some ideas, or flick through magazines, Pinterest, news apps, Instagram. Does a scenic travel shot get your mojo working, or does that Modern Love story in the New York Times jolt your fingers across the keyboard? I find human interest pieces and personal essays piquing my interest.

Finally, if nothing catches you there, how about a slice of reality? Go out, people watch or start gathering from your own memories.

Can you put it into words now?

Have you come up with a topic or general idea of what you want to write about? Once you’ve reached this point, think about putting a little blurb together that would get you started on writing the story.

When I came up with the idea of Flour City Blues, I knew my main topic was going to be music. As I thought more about the topic, I took elements that I knew about to apply to the story.

I came up with this idea:

17 year-old boy is forced to move before the start of his senior year to his parents’ home town as a method to heal their marriage. As a method of healing himself from being witness of their nearly broken marriage, growing up, he uses music as his own therapy. Also, hilarity ensues…somehow. (Have to keep it light and comedic!)

Do you have feelings for your topic?

Think about your topic. This is going to become one big personal relationship, so think about if you can commit to it or not. Think about your topic’s traits like a partner: is it unique, be attractive to others and is there a strong dynamic working together?

Just like that. J

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