Artists of every type find inspiration all around them, and writers are no exception. Ideas might come in the form of a dream, a “what if” question, an overheard conversation, etc.
Those are all fairly normal sources of inspiration. Personally, I’ve been inspired by dreams, “what if”s, an 80′s music video, a mutation of another story, an X meets Y premise, and…spam.
If you’ve seen any of my recent blog posts, you know I’m referring not to the meat in a can but to a spam comment submitted to my blog. Experiences like this make writers shake their heads when non-writer folk ask, “How do you come up with all your ideas?” After all, if we can be inspired by something as mundane and ridiculous as spam, how can we not go through life without endless story ideas?
From Story Seed to Story
Story seeds often start small: a single line of dialogue, a single question, a single action. And somehow our brain takes that nugget of information and turns it into a whole story.
It’s fascinating when we stop to think about it. How stories grow from something so insignificant into a fully populated world with well-rounded characters and intricate plot events never ceases to amaze me.
My spam story seed started out small enough, just a dependent clause: While this is a low-class hornet’s snuggery. That turned into the first line of the story. Which turned into the character. Which turned into her situation. Which turned into the world she lived in. Which turned into the plot events she had to deal with.
In other words, despite the fact it started as something utterly ridiculous, it turned into a real, full-blown story. One of my favorite things about finishing a draft is seeing how far a story has grown. It’s usually hard to believe it started from something so small.
How Does Our Garden Grow
The one thing all good story seeds have in common is a question. When we ask a question, our muse has to come up with the answer. With luck, that leads to another question, and another, and another. Questions drive the story forward for both writers and readers.
My spam story seed was just eight words, and yet it immediately created three questions in my mind. What’s a hornet? What’s a snuggery? And what makes this one low-class?
Pretty good for a random collection of words that were less than a complete sentence. And that’s why this was such a potent story seed for me. I instantly had questions about characters, settings, and world-building. Just add muse to turn that into a story.
So far, I’ve received positive feedback from my alpha reader. Now my critique partner and beta readers will take their turn while I figure out what I’m going to do with this short story.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a hint of the dystopian romance my story seed grew into.
While this is a low-class hornet’s snuggery, I still have a shred of self-respect.
Like all female orphans in Downriver, Julia’s life follows a predictable path. Work from the age of two. Endure slavery at a snuggery from the age of eight.
And hope no one buys the key to her belt.
But when a powerful member of the ruling class pays a record amount for the right to strip her of her virginity, she’s going to lose her belt, the one thing protecting her from the rape gangs. Julia’s days of relative safety will end—unless the secrets of Downriver can save her.
Where do you get your ideas? Do you have any unusual sources of inspiration? What’s the most unique source you’ve had or have heard of? If you’re a short story or flash fiction writer, do you still get more ideas than you can use? What amazes you most about the story-seed-to-completed-story process?
P.S. If my short story sounds interesting, make sure you’re signed up for my newsletter via the name/email widget on my sidebar. No matter what I decide to do with it, I’ll try to offer it for free to my subscribers.
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