How you can come up with new stories and characters.
Do you feel as though you may have run out of ideas? Are you returning time and time again to the same scenarios and characters? Are you stuck in a genre rut? If so, you’re not the only one, especially at this time of year, when everyone’s busy, tired and looking forward to a break. What's more, it’s very comforting working with what we know. It means we don’t have to do any time-consuming research. And, if we’re diligently trying to write something every day, writing about something we’re familiar with is a sure-fire way of getting something on the page.
But…wouldn’t it be lovely to write something different? To go down a different path? I think so. Which is why, in this blog, I’m going to share some fun ways you can come up with new ideas – each with a festive flavour.
Let’s start with Christmas songs. First lines can be a really good way of generating new stories. Wham’s Last Christmas begins: Last Christmas I gave you my heart… Now, instead of writing a story of unrequited love (as in the song), consider how you could take this in an entirely different direction. What about someone who’s angry rather than sad that they’ve been rejected? What about something fantastical about a heart that has literally been given away and now someone or something wants it back? Begin your story with the song’s first line.
Next, consider Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas is You in the same way. The first line is, I don’t want a lot for Christmas. Instead of it being a declaration of love, what about giving this line to a character who is earnestly not wanting much at all. Why is that? What is the one thing that he wants and is it possible for him to have this thing for Christmas? If the one thing he wants is to spend Christmas alone, for example, how would family members respond to this request?
Another good way of generating stories is to consider the season itself. Who would love the snow? What kind of adult would wake up at dawn to make a snowman? Who would use the snow as an excuse to not leave the house over the holidays? What if twinkling fairy lights are being used to send messages to a secret lover that the coast is clear and they can come over? What if these lights are left on throughout the year for a very specific reason? Who might do that and why?
Now, let’s look at Christmas sweaters and pyjamas? Who might wear a tatty old reindeer sweater they’ve had for years? Who might not have got the memo about wearing Christmas sweaters to the office party? How do they feel being glammed up when everyone else is casual? Who has been knitting a Christmas sweater forever because they unravel it just before they finish? Who goes shopping in their Christmas pyjamas? Who washes their child’s snowman pyjamas and places them on the bed every year even though their child is now an adult?
The last prompt in this blog is Christmas movies. Take the plot of any festive movie you love and switch up the characters, setting or genre. What if instead of being set in a primary school, Nativity (fabulously fun movie; I love love love Mr Poppy) is set in an office or a prison? It you like The Holiday, what about a picture book where animals swap homes at Christmas instead of humans? Think of the plot of It’s a Wonderful Life and come up with a modern-day version where someone is reminded of all the good they do in their community. This would also work well as a picture book with a robin who needs to be reminded of all the joy she brings to her forest-dwelling neighbours.
I hope that these story generators help you come up with something different this Christmas.