July 2012

Ideas for stories

July 31, 2012: Technology can wag the dog of common sense. A teenage driver took a photo of a dying hit-and-run victim and posted it on Twitter for a joke, rather than call the emergency services. Such behaviour has recently begun to get people banned from social media. Behaviour has consequences. Your fiction should be full of the fall out from the decisions that your characters make.

July 30, 2012: Bizarre local by-laws can spark ideas for fiction. In today’s story, a Florida airboat captain who had his hand bitten off by an alligator has been charged with unlawful feeding of the beast. A seemingly callous double whammy.

July 29, 2012: Some news stories cry out for a resolution. In this case, what could possibly be the motive for stealing the body of 98-year-old Pauline Spinelli from her family vault at the Atlantic City Cemetery in Pleasantville, New Jersey? Buried in 1996, why wait until 2012 to dissenter the corpse? You decide!

July 28, 2012: Don’t underestimate the stupidity of aspiring criminals. The robber in this story was identified by the unusual tattoo on his forehead. He was caught and identified within minutes of mugging a victim at gunpoint. Use details to add colour and plot twists.

July 27, 2012: Violence can be niche. In this story, clashes between ice-cream vendors on Grays beach in Essex a man in a van was attacked with an axe, nearly losing an arm. Story themes and driving emotions may be generic, but originality lies in specific detail.

July 26, 2012: Character drives the direction of plot. The vanity of a woman from Winder, Georgia, USA got her re-arrested. When Tonya Ann Fowler called 911 to complain about the unflattering nature of a mug shot for a previous crime, the police charged her with unlawful use of the emergency line. Strong personality traits define the actions they take. Consider your characters as you decide your plot. The complete melding of both in your story may take several drafts.

July 25, 2012: Keep an eye out for surveys that cast light on current trends in society. Today’s publication of the UK ‘happiness’ survey comments on factors that improve people’s outlook on life and the reverse. The findings with reports can stimulate ideas for finding specific examples (i.e. characters and plot) to illustrate big-picture patterns.

July 24, 2012: Go against the trend, sometimes. These designs of Olympic curmudgeonly sentiment tap into the NIMBY mentality of killjoys everywhere, while running the gauntlet of copyright infringement. Characters out of synch with the modern word — fish out of water — are useful for pathos and comic effect in your work.

July 23, 2012: Attempts on trumped-up world records can be entertaining detail for a story. In this case knitters in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada are making a sock to cover a DC-3 aircraft. Why, I do not know, but details like this can spark creative ideas for writing fiction.

July 22, 2012: Find new takes on everyday ceremonies. Entrepreneurs in Las Vegas have taken the next step in quickie weddings: driving out to the happy couple to perform the nuptials. New angles help to make stories memorable.

July 21, 2012: Always be on the lookout for examples of how popular culture invades social behaviour. The story of the Ohio woman begging on the street for enhanced breasts is a metaphor for the priorities prevalent in society.

July 20, 2012: Local detail can add colour to your story. The fact that a bear wandered into a Pittsburgh shopping mall is interesting enough, but the fact that no shoppers even noticed is extraordinary. Make sure that anything that happens in the world of your story is possible according to the perimeters of society, culture and nature that operate in the geographical setting of your work.

July 19, 2012: Consider the plot potential of the internet. This article described how a stolen vintage car was returned to its rightful owner after he spotted the vehicle on eBay 42 years after the crime took place. The web makes deus ex machina events more likely, within reason.

July 18, 2012: Prostitutes in Auckland, New Zealand are using road signs as impromptu pole-dancing props, breaking many signs into the bargain. Spend time making connections being disparate ideas and themes, and you will have some great ideas to increase the originality quotient of your story.

July 17, 2012: Power corrupts. At the local level, power makes councillors think they can command the gods. In the Netherlands, politicians want to fine weather forecasters for getting reports wrong. Red tape gone mad. Whatever a character is a novel has a stroke of good fortune or a career breakthrough, consider how the positive change might affect their personality.

July 16, 2012: Alternative history stories are legitimate enterprises, especially as they happen in real life. Publicity-hungry Angers council in France’s Loire Valley is trying to drum up tourism from Britain by demanding the crown jewels of England as compensation for the murder of Edward Plantagenet, the Earl of Warwick, in 1499. This story also sets up plot possibilities for how present-day society works, whether or not history took a different course. There is, no doubt, zero chance of Britain handing over the nation’s treasure, especially in a jubilee year.

July 15, 2012: Human beings create weird gadgets, for no apparent reason. Japanese scientist Nobuhiro Takahashi, from the University of Electro-Communications, has invented ‘Shiri’, a pair of robotic buttocks.  He claims the ‘robo-butt’ ‘represents emotions with visual and tactual transformation of the muscles.’ He says that Shiri it is an attempt ‘to approach the creation of sensitive and subtle expression by a humanoid robot using organic constructs’. This jargon attempts to make the insane sounds plausible. Great writing encompasses madness, so stay open to the weird and exotic side of human creativity.

July 14, 2012: People can say weird things, especially when they have positions of authority. The chief inspector of Ofsted demonstrates here a strange grasp of metaphor when addressing head teachers. Such imagination in thought and speech can shed a window on unusual characters. Think about what makes your characters tick before you decide what they say to each other.

July 13, 2012: Character motivations can lead to surprising outcomes. Four-year-old Aiden Moore failed to win a teddy bear from an arcade machine in the Dawlish Sands Holiday Park in Devon, so he crawled through a flap into the machine to get one instead. He spent 30 minutes trapped inside the machine until staff found the key to let him out, clutching a cuddly toy. Human will is a powerful force. Find your characters motivations and play with them, to say where their dreams take you.

July 12, 2012: Think laterally. This funeral director in Easley, South Carolina, is serving Starbucks coffee with coffins. Plot originality comes from mixing disparate elements that have never been linked before.

July 11, 2012: Human beings strive for perfection in pointless pursuits, in this case spitting cheery pips the furthest distance in Eau Claire, Michigan. Within niche worlds, people are just as competitive and vicious as in wider society. Microcosms can shed light on general behaviour and have rich comic potential.

July 10, 2012: Most crime is bungled, witness the ‘Buxom Blonde’ heist at a petrol station in Queensland, Australia. The woman made elemental mistakes as befits a rookie robber. Consider writing about crime as it actually happens and weave your story around the consequences of the action rather than working out the identity of the criminals. If you can achieve both of these aspects in the same story, you have a special talent.

July 9, 2012: Be creative about the law of unintended consequences. An amnesty programme in Chicago to hand in firearms and fake guns backfired when the local NRA handed in old, rusty guns to each cash to buy new rifles and ammunition. Developments of this kinds can drive future action in imaginative directions.

July 8, 2012: Story arcs can be enhanced by juxtaposing extreme emotions. In this article, a couple postpone their wedding due to the death of the groom’s brother in Spain on the pre-nuptial stag trip. Plot reversals like this are great for ending ‘acts’ in the structure of a novel or movie.

July 7. 2012: News that is out of the ordinary can seem bizarre and intriguing. This article describes how thieves broke into a Chicago beauty salon and stole hair extensions worth $230,000. The question ‘Why?’ can set in train ideas for stories.

July 6, 2012: The limitations of real life can add colour to your story. A Hampshire swingers’ club had to disband when the enterprise failed to get planning permission. Everyday frustration of exotic projects can supply comic material for your work.

July 5, 2012: Stress does funny things to people. In this case, the Australian Government’s Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, attempts to deflect questioning by singing — very badly. How should your characters react when they are put under undue pressure?

July 4, 2012: With the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, what relevance do sub-atomic particles have to fiction writing? The particles show ‘character’ and ‘behaviour’, so can be studied to act as metaphors for human behaviour. Self-imposed rules can prove to been rich creative veins.

July 3, 2012: Bizarre detail can add colour to a story. Here, a man wearing a jet pack carries the Olympic flame in Leicester. The dressing of a story is what distinguishes one writer from another. Learn to use strange facts, figures and events to your advantage.

July 2, 2012: Traumatic relationships can be revealed at moments of great stress. The divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes shed light on religious differences that remind the subject of speculation during their marriage. Big events can trigger plot reversals that help to structure your fiction writing.

July 1, 2012: The sudden loss through theft or death of an element of a story can shape how characters react to their world. This story relates how Rufus the hawk was stolen from the All-England Tennis Club during the Wimbledon Championships.  In this case spectators notice the lack of the bird of prey and the pigeons have an easier time. Think about how a prop or character in your narrative would affect the story if it or they were to disappear from the plot suddenly.

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