So, what should you write about? Let me suggest three techniques to get a story idea so quickly you won’t even realize it happened.
In the two seasons of the TV series The White Lotus, a handful of ultra-rich folks spend time at a luxurious island resort (first in Hawaii, then in Sicily). Intriguing things happen, menace always rolling in with the waves.
Apparently the show’s creator, Mike White, was influenced by the 1970/80s TV series Fantasy Island, of which he was a big fan as a kid. It was a schlocky show, but it has a very similar premise to The White Lotus. And…I suspect the person that created Fantasy Island was a bit influenced by Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, which has an island setting and a magical fellow, Prospero, running the place in a manner similar to Fantasy Island’s white-suited Mr. Roarke (pictured above).
So, do your own riff on a story you like: comic book, fairy tale, opera, schlocky TV show, etc.
Instead of searching for that BIG idea, consider an idea that will lead you into a really short piece—fiction, essay… whatever. This is all the rage now in the literary world (flash fiction and nonfiction), pieces that run just a page or two.
Indeed, Gotham has a literary magazine devoted to these pieces—The Razor. Each month, we publish one fiction and one nonfiction story, with text, audio narration, and original artwork. For example….
M.M. Kelley’s “Cicada” – a short story showing the narrator’s fascination with cicadas.
Lucy McClellan’ s “Baggage” – a personal essay about the writer’s dislike of rolling suitcases.
Lindz McLeod’s “Cake by the Ocean”– a short story composed of the narrator’s memories of desserts eaten in various locales.
So, just come up with a very self-contained short idea, which will probably end up taking on layers you never expected.
Don’t worry about getting a great idea. Come up with a terrible idea for a story. Takes all the pressure off.
Let’s say your partner chides you for never washing the dishes. Or you see a child throwing a tantrum. Or you spend a long day just playing a video game.
None of those sound like especially great story ideas. However, it all depends on what you do with it.
Jamil Jan Kochai’s short story “Playing Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain” is about a teenager playing a video game all day long. But in a magical realism sort of way—he sees things from his family’s past in the game.
You know what’s a truly terrible idea? A hip hop musical about the US’s first Secretary of the Treasury who brilliantly set up a national banking system. His name, I believe, was Alexander Hamilton.