Blocked up like a bank holiday motorway? Devoid of any writing ideas? Here’s my Five Step Short Story Idea Generating Process (TM pending).
- Take a blank sheet of paper and make a random list of characters and their objectives. For example: A man who desperately needs £100,000 within a week; a woman who must get her head unstuck from some railings; a man who wants to be young again; a girl who wants to buy a second-hand caravan.
- Make a random list of scenarios: The world will certainly end next Thursday; walking is made illegal; all the bees die; dogs rule the world.
- Make a list of interesting words: Treachery, lust, envy, arrogance, porridge, goats, pasta, secrets.
- Quickly jot down sentences and ideas that take something from at least two of the lists. Such as:
- A man needs £100,000 to deceive a goat
- A woman trying to annoy a goat gets her head stuck in some railings
- Arrogance kills all of the bees
- Dogs rule through treachery
- Porridge is the secret of youth
- Over-consumption of pasta will lead the word to oblivion next Tuesday
Choose one and get writing. Easy.
Writing can sometimes be very difficult. How’s that for an understatement? But how hard, or easy, is it meant to be?
Here are three very different reports from the coal face of the writing industry:
1) In Slate magazine Garrison Keillor tells writers it’s easy, so stop moaning:
“The fact of the matter is that the people who struggle most with writing are drunks. They get hammered at night and in the morning their heads are full of pain and adverbs. Writing is hard for them, but so would golf be, or planting alfalfa, or assembling parts in a factory.”
2) While over at Columbia Journalism Review Robert Boynton interviews the painfully unproductive Gay Talese and reports how:
“Displaying equal parts pride and self-loathing, Talese reports he wrote barely fifty-four-and-a-half typed pages between 1995 and 1999.”
3) Meanwhile, in the Guardian, Orhan Pamuk reflects on the joys of putting words on paper:
“If you leave aside sensual pleasures, sexual pleasures, good food, good sleep, and so on, then the happiest thing is that I have written two and a half, three good pages. I am almost assured that they are, but I need confirmation. My girlfriend comes, we are happy, I read to her, she says, ‘This is wonderful’ – that’s it! That’s the greatest happiness.”
This is what we could see yesterday from the window of our Devon holiday cottage. Winter Wonderland.