Where do you come up with this stuff??
Anyone who has ever told someone they’re a writer has been asked the question: where do you come up with your ideas? For me, stories are driven by characters, and characters are everywhere. Think about all the people with whom you interact on a daily basis: other workers you pass on your daily commute, the man who sold you a newspaper or a bagel, wait staff and salespeople, friends and family, everyone with his or her own unique story.
As writers, we have to keep our eyes peeled for unique people and stories. Next time you go out, try this exercise: take note of the most interesting-looking people around you and answer these questions: Where are they going? Where are they coming from? Why do they seem panicked/relaxed/cheerful/rushed/confused/etc? What is their home life like? Do they have a significant other? Kids? Living parents? What are their ambitions? How do those ambitions compare with their current life situation?
Sometimes stories fall into your lap
Sometimes, stories are handed to you with little to no work required. I witnessed the following scene at the airport this morning around 6:45 and instantly knew I had to use it somehow. It may not go into a story anytime soon, but I have a sort of backlog for story ideas and scenes that I keep on my Google Drive for future reference. Obviously, I have filled in the details with my imagination.
“23! Gate 23!” the man in the baggy jeans and black blazer shouted, mouth tilting up at the edges. He raced ahead of the gaggle of uniformed kids, pushing Jimmy’s wheelchair in front of him. Jimmy had his arms out waving wildly, as if trying to swim through the air. The man tilted the wheelchair onto its back wheels and plowed onto the moving sidewalk like a motorist entering an arena.
Jimmy’s older brother Ralph stopped at the entrance to the terminal, staring up at the placard. “Did he say 33? 33 is the other way!” He watched Jimmy’s flailing arms, sticking out of either side of the counselor’s body, making him look like a multi-limbed god. A multi-limbed god wearing baggy blue jeans.
“It’s 23!” one of the other counselors shouted to Ralph, passing by him and hopping onto the conveyor belt. Ralph hesitated only a moment longer and then followed.
Blond-haired Rupert brought up the rear, clutching his crutches in one hand, flinging along his crippled leg in a hop-skip-jump, hop-skip-jump.