Short Story Writing Project: Using Articles for Ideas

As I stated in an earlier article, one of the great roots of a story is the question, What if? What if a man started receiving post cards in the mail every day that gave him odd advice? What if that man were a newspaper columnist? What if his wife was trying to kill him? What if the post cards were from his estranged father?

The problem with what if? questions is that you still need a germ of an idea in order to get started. For some people this is no problem. Ideas come easily for some people and not so easily for others. One of the great sources for ideas is articles. The world is filled with articles these days. From newspapers to magazines to blogs, people are constantly writing new articles about every topic you can think of. What you need to do is mine these articles for your fictional ideas.

I subscribe to a number of bloggers, from Scott Adams of Dilbert fame to Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week to Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. Just those three blogs alone can yield any number of ideas for a story. Here are the most recent articles from each of those bloggers:

I didn’t pick the articles because I thought they were especially appropriate, I simply grabbed the most recent articles. From them, I can come up with a number of what-if questions:

  • What if a beautiful high school cheerleader found herself in love with a homely science nerd with no interest in her? What if she started stalking him? What if no one would believe him?
  • What if a mother became obsessed with filming her young child? What if she started uploading the videos to YouTube? What if the child became famous?
  • What if a married couple living an extravagant lifestyle tried to put themselves on a strict financial regimen? What if one of them adhered to it and the other didn’t? What if one of them started to hide their money from the other one?

These are just ideas I thought up on the spur of the moment. Anyone is welcome to use them, but I would bet that my readers could come up with better ideas. Feel free to leave your own what if? thoughts in the comments.

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