How to Find More Story Ideas | Julia Gousseva | Skillshare
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8 Lessons (38m) View My Notes
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Idea #1

    • 3. Idea #2

    • 4. Idea #3

    • 5. Idea #4

    • 6. Idea #5

    • 7. Idea #6

    • 8. Conclusion


About This Class

Do you want to write a story but not sure what to write about? Are you looking for a new source of inspiration? 

In this class, you will learn how to find creative ideas for your stories by looking at pictures online and asking thought-provoking questions.

We will look at and discuss pictures of people, nature, and cities. Then, we will combine these pictures to generate even more ideas.


1. Introduction: how to find story ideas and spark your creativity by using pictures. Have you heard the expression? A picture's worth 1000 words In this class, we will say that the picture can lead to 1000 words. They're going to be 1000 unique and interesting words that will help you spark your creativity and come up with an original story. It's an exercise have been using for years with my creative writing students, and they like it a lot. I hope you will like it, too. Shall we try? Let's take a look at the picture. So first, don't think of a story. Just look at what you see. There's a little girl, right? She is facing away from us. She's looking at the sun. The sun is low on the horizon, so it could be sunset. Could be sunrise. Do you see the bicycle? There's a pink bicycle in the by the fence next to the bicycle. There's an outdoor table in a couple of chairs or three chairs, right. The grass is green, so it's Ah, summertime. Or maybe it's late summer summer. If you look at the trees, they look like they don't have any leaves left the girl. Is she holding something in her left hand? Maybe. What is your facial expression like if we don't see it? And that's what makes it interesting, because that can lead to a lot of interpretation. All right, so now let's think of what kind of questions we can ask about this picture. Let's try. I came up with three. And of course, you can come up with your own. Is it the morning of her birthday? And she sees the bike, her gift so that can lead to one type of story, right? Probably positive. Um, nice surprise. Maybe. Or maybe is it Sunset and her twin sister isn't back yet and she keeps looking at the bike , and it's only her bike. Where's her sister? What? What happened to her? Or do you see that table that empty table work appear and supposed to set the table for dinner? But they're gone. So what happened to them? What are they? So even with these questions, what you could do is take one of these questions and right for 10 minutes and see where it takes you. You can write in all three you can write just on one of them. You can come up with your own question. Don't try to write a story. Just write down ideas that come to your mind as you answer these questions and the story will follow. So we're coming up with a lot of different ideas, right? Just with one picture. Are you feeling more creative? I hope you are. That's just the beginning. Let's take a look at a few more pictures will start with pictures of people and see what questions we can ask about them. Shall we try? 2. Idea #1: stories need characters. And when I read stories, I like to start by developing characters. And that's why I chose collecting pictures off people as the first idea so these people can become characters in your story. Off course stories need more than just characters, and we'll talk about those ideas a little bit later. So let's start with pictures of people. Take a look at this one. It's interesting. It's black and white, so maybe it's Ah, a memory, right? It's, Ah, picture from the past from from when she was young. Maybe she's older now, but let's take a look at the picture itself. First, there's a white wall. Kind of What's the Tyler brick wall and the very basic looking bench. There's a newspaper next to this girl, and the girl is looking down right then she's dressed in a in, ah, little summer dress so and she doesn't look cold, so it must be summertime. It must be warm, and the floor doesn't look like What's it like? A cement floor, maybe drops of water on it doesn't look that great. That setting is not very attractive, and she doesn't look. She's not looking directly at the camera, so maybe she's not happy. Or maybe she's focused on her own thoughts, right? So they committed to take a look at it, and then I'll show you what questions am I came up with. So again I came up with three questions. Did she get some bad news? Is that why she's looking kind of sad? Or maybe she is not sad. Maybe she's admiring her new shoes. Or maybe she's one of wondering why she wasted so much money on these shoes. They're not as great as she that she had expected them to be. Or maybe she's just tired of waiting for someone, and you can come up with your own questions again. And what you can do is take one of my questions or come up with your own and right again for 10 minutes and see where that takes you. All right, let's take a look at another picture. So cute kids, right? I like this picture. A lot of the kids air in the foreground, and the background looks like mountains or a valley looks like summertime, and I like that the background is out of focus, so we can really see the kids of the boy looks more affectionate than the girl. She looks maybe a little bit surprised, but she doesn't look unhappy, right? She looks pretty content. So let's think about what kind of a story, or what kind of what kind of questions we can ask that could lead to a story. Maybe it's a flashback to the first kiss, and if you write a flashback, then that it could be interesting to use two different voice is the voice of an adult remembering that first kiss intermingled with the voice of a child who is experiencing it. And of course you can, right from the boy's perspective or from the girls. Why is that picture significant? Is this the last time they saw each other? Maybe one of them is finding this picture now, and maybe they want to find the other person. And maybe it's Ah. Since the boy looks more active in this picture, maybe he'll be looking for her in the future Or maybe the opposite. Maybe she regrets that she didn't keep up that friendship at that age and neighbors an adult. She wants to look for him. So if you like this picture. If you like any of these questions, or if you want to come up with your own again, take 10 minutes and see where these questions in this picture lead you. All right, let's take a look at a different one. I'm recording this class in the middle of July, and it's pretty hot outside right now. So this picture with its ah, water cool water in the mountains and the kayak looks is special inviting. And I guess if you're listening toe to this class in the middle of winter, that's probably quite them inviting as well. So big. Open space, a mountain school, water, nice weather. How so they could look. And let's again think of some questions. So my first question is issued by herself. Or is she with somebody? And if she's by herself, why and where is she going? Or maybe we'll obviously somebody took the picture so we can assume that this person is in the story. If you want to assume that and you can ask, Is this her first vacation vacation together with the person who took the picture? And who is this person? Will she find something unexpected on the strip s again. Think about these questions or come up with your own and you can take about 10 minutes. You can set the timer. You don't need to write for a long time. It's much easier to have a specific limit and see what you can come up with in 10 minutes. Here's another picture like this guy looks very focused, doesn't he? And he's writing something in his notebook. You can see some bracelets on his right wrist. There's a necklace and they can tell if it's a crucifix or if it's something else. Hasn't Adidas Ah, baseball camp on dressed quite informally and it looks like he is sitting in a city, But the city doesn't look. Or at least the neighborhood doesn't look too busy. So that's all I can see. And let's think off some questions we can ask. What is she writing Issue? Writing a letter to somebody. Who is he writing Teoh? Or is it his diary? His journal that he just make a life changing decision. Writing about that? Is he studying for the exam or a job interview? Why is it important to him? What is he recording? That he just sees something that got his attention. So again, if you like this picture for any of these questions, ah, spark your creativity, spark imagination again, take two minutes and right on them. Or maybe you're seeing something else here and then go ahead and write about that. All right, let's take a look at Vaal less picture of a person before we go to a different category. So here's this young woman who has taken a picture of something right and the again looks like summertime looks quite Mediterranean with the sea in the background. She's standing in the on the balcony, it looks like, and she's taking the picture into the building, possibly right. She's dressed in black and white. She looks quite glamorous, and she looks quite pretty, even though we don't really see her face. All right, so let's think of some questions. So the first question I came up with is ah, issue professional photographer. Is that a job assignment or issue on vacation? And an obvious question is Water. Who issued taken a picture off and the 3rd 1? I thought about it because I like mysteries. So I was wondering if she took a picture of something. And then maybe later she found out that the crime was committed in that space where she waas and she looks at the picture and she sees something that she took a picture off accidentally that's related to this crime and to complicate things even more. Maybe she wasn't supposed to be in on that spot for some reason. And ah, then she has a moral dilemma where she wants to, ah, admit that she took this picture, show this picture or she wants to hide it because she doesn't want to admit that she was on that spot. All right, again, if you like these questions, if you like this picture, go ahead and think a 10 minutes and the see what you can come up with and then we'll look at Idea number two. 3. Idea #2: in the previous section. We talked about people as characters for your story. And of course, Ah, any story also needs a settings. So we're going to look at two types of settings. We're going to start with nature for Idea number two and then Frasier. Number three. We're going to talk about cities, right this to kind of different types of settings. So let's start with our first picture of nature. So take a look. This is high up in the mountains, right? You can see snow in the mountains, some clouds in the sky. You see pine trees, which, of course, means it's high up in the mountains. It's a pretty cold, probably even in the summer. And that's why we have some logs by that cabin, which they probably need to use to to heat the place up a little bench overlooking the mountain mountains and the lake. So that's what we see, and they're like we did last time. Let's take a look at what kind of questions can we ask? And of course I'm asking the questions about people because we do need to have people to create a story, but we're focusing more on the setting itself. Right? So who lives in this hut and why do they live there? Or you can look at who found this hut. Maybe you have some people exploring the area or looking for this hut. Or you can focus not on the heart but on the lake itself. And think about what could have happened on this cold mountain lake or in this cold mountain lake. Right? You can think about the romance story, a horror story, a mystery story. So anything you want. So what happened there? Even a fair deal. All right, if you like this picture, if you like these questions or you can come up with your own, go ahead and do that and right for about 10 minutes, here's another one. I like the mist that it looks like a perfect the setting for a fairytale. So dark forest tried lots of vegetation there, a road leading through it. We don't know where it's going and what we can find. At the end of it. It still looks pretty like a civilized type road, right, well maintained road, but we don't know how soon it will end and turn to something different. So again, let's take a look at our questions. What kind of stories is going to be? Is it an adventure, a quest, a story, a vacation? And depending on how you frame it, you're going to come up with different characters, right and different things that can happen. Will you characters come upon the crime scene at the end of this road? Will they have an unusual animal encounter? What can happen in this forest? Alright, again, if you like these questions, or you can come up with your own, go ahead and write any ideas that come to mind and then we'll take a look at a different picture. All right. So I decided I'm going to change the seasons and find the winter scene. This looks pretty desolate, crazy, abandoned, except for this one tiny little church, literally in the middle of nowhere. And we can tell that this is it's pretty warm in the church. Where do you see how the snow has melted around the church? So it's pretty warm. Everything else looks quite cold and it looks like it's Ah, I don't know, Dawn, their desk. Maybe nighttime is coming. All right, so let's take a look at what kind of questions we can ask about this picture and an obvious one. Is this a story of religious awakening? Since it's a church, maybe it is. Maybe that's what your characters were striving for. Or maybe it's an accident. Maybe have travelers who were lost in the cold and found the Steiner Church. Who is inside it or what is inside it. So I hope these questions spark imagination. You can write something about them. This one is very different. This is, I think, the only picture of nature that this ah, close up and it's a close up of a sunflower. Some floors are interesting, their flowers, of course, but you can eat the seeds. They turn their heads with the sun and that that the Stephen King use some flowers and a couple of his books. They could be quite interesting, maybe a symbols of something. And I think in the in the pagan culture, a sell flowers were quite important. And also, if none of that appeals to you, think about the details that you see. Details are important in stories to make your leaders relate, which writing so they can look at the how the sun hits the sunflowers. Different colors, right, different shapes and shades. You could describe that as well. And here's some questions to think about. Is this a story of a summer romance, possibly, or a murder in this field of sunflowers or an alien invasion? Or maybe it's some kind of a childhood memory. Ah, that your character or characters are discussing and related to whatever is happening in the present. All right, I think this is the last one. We have another leak, but it doesn't look as happen. The mountains who have a couple of boats. Ah, nice, clear water. Ah, pretty clear day, right? Summertime. So let's see what questions we can ask. Obvious one. Who is exploring the wilderness? What will they find? What will surprise them? Readers like surprises. That's what makes stories interesting. So that's why I asked that question. And what will they learn about themselves and each other authorities? Even though we're talking about settings right now, stories are about people and what happens to them, and that's why I put this last question in. They could be finding something in nature, but really they should be finding something about themselves, right? So that some I asked that question. All right, take a few minutes, go ahead and read about it, and then we look at idea number three. 4. Idea #3: in this section that will continue talking about settings. But we're moving from nature into cities, and we'll do the same thing, will describe each of these pictures, and then we'll ask some questions about them. So let's start with the 1st 1 The 1st 1 is a welcome sign to Las Vegas, and you can see it's an old fashioned type sign, so you can either set your story in the past. Or you can set it in the present because I believe Las Vegas hesitate and a lot of these old signs. So the sign is a close up, and then we see the strip Las Vegas Strip in the background, lots of palm trees, sunny weather so they can have a minute. And then let's talk about some questions we can ask about this picture, and the 1st 1 is, Why are your characters here and then started? It was kind of stereotypical stuff. Bachelor sparsely, A wedding. Maybe they're here to make money, maybe their math geniuses, and they're trying to outsmart the casino. Maybe they want to try out for a part in the show. And, of course, you have to think about unexpected things that will happen. Those surprises we talked about before, right? So again, if any of these questions and if you like the questions, if you like the picture, take a few minutes and see what you can write, all right. Moving on to a different place. This is, Ah, a picture of downtown Moscow. You can see they read the powers of the Kremlin, and I think it's summertime. I think I see green trees by the Kremlin wall. I chose that picture for a couple of reasons when I was born and raised there. Settle Ethel to be fun, to include it, and also because there's a lot of potential in this international time, mystery or international adventure so they could look. We see the Moscow River right, the bridge over it, quite a lot off cars on both sides, off the street. It looks like night time, obviously. So let's see what questions we can ask. And again, stories are about characters. So why are your characters in Moscow are the tourists? Are they spies? Are the business travelers off what's going to happen with them? Or maybe they're exploring family history or trying to reunite with friends or family. That could be an interesting story as well. Or maybe your character was born in Russia but adopted by a U. S. Family. And now they're back trying to look at their past right or just the country of birth. So if you like any of these questions, I see what you can write about them and then we'll move on to a different picture. So from Moscow, we're moving to Paris and we're getting an aerial view of Paris at the sunset or sunrise, right? Or maybe just a kind of a cloud. Today we can see the Eiffel Tower in the background and we can see the gargoyle right in front of us, so that can lead you to different kinds of stories and questions. So let's take a look at some of those questions. Piers is supposed to be romantic city, but you don't want to be predictable. So if you go that idea, something should happen. That's not romantic at all. So what could that be? And of course, Piers is also city of art, so it can go on with its theory type. Maybe a character is an art student, but let's avoid predictable stories. And let's think about what can this art student discovered in Paris? That's exciting but has nothing to do with art, right? So think about that. See what you can write. And then let's take a look at a different picture. This one is a close up of a street in New York, and you see a couple of yellow cabs, right? And lots of tall buildings. RB slips downtown New York So let's take a look. It's some questions. Let's imagine that that's your character's first trip to New York to New York City. What surprised him or her the most, so you can juxtapose their expectations with reality. That's always an interesting way to the frame a story. Or let's say you, Karen three, gets a job as a taxi driver. And what's Ah? What's the main challenge? That the experience and the last one something different. A heat wave hits New York City How does your character cope? All right, And speaking of heat wave, let's ah, get away from it and let's get into a winter scene in Washington, D. C. So it's nighttime. Lots of lights. You can see the monuments you can see some snow and let's take a look at some questions. Let's imagine that your character came to Washington, D. C. For his or her Twins presidential inauguration. But the twin gets incapacitated and your character has to step in. That could be quite exciting. Your character does not want to be president, but somehow know they have to. War may be your character sees something suspicious but does not want to report it because of the circumstances involved. What kind of circumstances will Maybe a character isn't supposed to be there, and that's why they don't want to reveal that. Or maybe it's a Christmas love story said. And you see, it's a beautiful city, and in winter time it's beautiful as well. So definitely can right there in a Christmas story. All right, 5. Idea #4: one of the fun things to do when you write stories is a play with your timeline. You can include flashbacks. You can include memories, or you can just set your story in the past. So the next idea will be about vintage pictures or pictures that show the past that you can use to spark some ideas for a story. Let's take a look. So the first thing is this abandoned car, and you can see that you do Janeiro a license plate, and it's been in that jungle type area for a long time, right? It's arrested, and it looks like it's a car made the world in the 19 fifties. So that's the picture you could describe the details of windshield wipers, right? The old leaves that I gathered there, and I wonder what's inside the car we can quite see. It s, oh, that's up to your imagination. Let's take a look at some questions. The first time is obvious. Who did this car belonged, Teoh. And what happened to the owners? Bachelors? A. Two questions, And maybe you can find the owners or some signs of the owners inside the car. Who finds this car and what do they do about this discovery? All right, again, if any of these questions appeal to you, go ahead and take two minutes and write about them. If not, you can come up with your own, and then we'll take a look at another picture. So this one has a stack of books that look kind of old and the it seek up that looks like like it came from an older tea set. But the tea bag is a little bit more modern right than the rest of the picture. Let's think about what questions we can ask. Let's imagine that one of these books is a journal. And, ah, think about who's journal is it? And who found it? Or maybe an older person gave these old books the younger person. Why did they do that? And who are these people? Is it the grand parent and their grandchild? What's the relationship? Maybe your character finds an old letter between the pages of these books, and then you can think about how did they get these books? Maybe they found them in a basement or an attic. Maybe they bought them at the yard sale or like a secondhand store. Who wrote that letter and who was it addressed to? I hope one of these questions at least parks imagination. If it doesn't go ahead in the right, some thoughts about it and then we look at the next picture. All right. Looks like an abandoned building. Strange little face in the background there, some science of demolition. Laura. Some remnants of what used to be here. A lot of open windows, a lot of light right paint peeling on the walls in remnants off some. What is that light fixture right on on the ceiling? Let's think of questions we can ask about it. What memories does your character have about this abandoned building? If the building is in the story, then that means that the characters in this building right and the character may have some memories about it. What happened to this building or what happened in this building? Who is your character with when they enter this building? That's an interesting question to, and it gives you an opportunity for some dialogue ratings for some interaction between your two characters. All right, if you like these questions, go ahead and write about them. And then let's take a look at the new picture. Ah, black and white, that's supposed to make us think that it said in the past, makes me think of the 19 fifties. It perfect, perfect, the lady pouring tea or coffee, Or maybe something else. A nice dress that she's wearing right. I think she has a wedding ring off flowers, but I think they're fake flowers right in the background. All right, so that's the picture. Let's think of some questions. Who is this woman? Is it your character in her youth, Your characters? Mom or grandmother? Is the character still the same as she used to be in there, thinking inter attitude to life or have thinks change? Who is she? Would? Is she by herself? Or is she was somebody? Is there a secret involved? If she was somebody she's not supposed to be worth. And what is supporting just your coffee? Or is it something more sinister? And what will happen after her guest or guests drink it? I hope again these questions are sparking some ideas in your mind, and there you have enough to write about for about 10 minutes or so or at the last picture ? Could be a vintage photo could be more of Ah, just the dress up thing. So three young girls, three young women that we see here they're all holding what looks like champagne flutes or wine glasses. They're all quite dressed up. And two of them, I think, are facing the camera, and one of them is looking elsewhere. Let's think of questions we can ask. Is this a folder shoot? What's the What's the occasion? Why are they doing this photo shoot? And who is taking the picture? Are these girls getting ready for a prom? Possibly. What's the relationship between the three of them? All right, so if you like this picture, you can go ahead and write about it, and then we'll move on to our next idea. 6. Idea #5: Our next idea is to focus on body language. This is an interesting way to write stories, and it's an interesting thing to observe. A lot of times, body language doesn't fit the words that people are saying, and this contrast between what people are saying with the words and what they're saying with their body language is interesting to describe. And can the create a new dimension in your stories? So let's take a look at the 1st 1 and see what we can see here. All right, so we have four people, and it looks like some of them are asking questions and some of them are explaining. But they could look at the body language. One guys pointing right, one guys holding the map and looking at the map and the two women there. One has her hands, her arms crossed ride and one has her hands in her pockets, right. So pay attention to that and also look at where they're looking. And the two women have sunglasses just kind of interesting. It will make it more difficult to see their their eyes right and the expressions in their eyes. And here's some questions for you are these people tourists, or are they posing as tourists? What or who are they looking for? What will they find instead? And what are their relationships? Right? Then you can focus on the people who are asking for directions or people who are given directions. Let's take a look at the different one or a definitely interesting body language. We have a couple, but they're not quite together, and we can see his expression and what exactly he's looking at. But she is not very happy. Oh, that's for sure. Why issue not happy? Why should disappointed that you forget her birthday, that you break a promise? Or maybe it's not on him. Maybe she has something important to tell him, and she can't quite gathered up her courage to do that. Are they breaking up again? You can use these questions, Teoh, right, your little scene. Or you can just describe their body language. You can even try to right the conversation, just the describing their body language. A conversation where no words, Omar said. Here we have another picture of a couple, but these guys look much more comfortable with each other than the 1st 1 in the at least from the bank. They look pretty content. What are they looking at? What are they talking about? Also, look at the details off the picture. It looks like it's Ah, it's relatively cold right there, wearing jackets and scarves. And she has, I think, boots on the environment around them doesn't look very inviting, and it also looks like it's Ah, maybe it's an early spring or maybe late fall. So those are the things to to think about. And now here's some questions. Maybe it's in wintertime. Why are they sitting on the bench in the winter? They seem comfortable with each other. What's their relationship? We can't tell their ages from the bag, so you have some room for imagination here. Where will they go after they get up from the bench? And what will they do? Can if any of these questions appeal to you? Take a few minutes and write about these people and try to pay special attention to their body language and describe it in your scene? Here's another one. It looks like it's obviously a young couple there in the restaurant. It's interesting. She she has a play. The food He has a glass of wine, right? She doesn't have wind. He doesn't have food. There's nobody else behind them. The restaurant is look, looks quite informal and quite cozy. And how comfortable do they look with each other? That's up to you to decide. They're facing each other and the other both smiling. Here's some questions. Is this a first date, or are they celebrating something? And why is there no food in front of human? No drink in front of her. I don't know why that kind of intrigues me. How long have they known each other and how have they met? So these are some questions. If you like them, go ahead and try to write your scene and they can try to pay attention and describe Body Ling, which as much as you can in this little exercise. All right, last picture. We have two women who are facing each other looking at each other. Are they friends? Why are they sitting on different benches? Are the neighbors did they meet in the sparked by accident or on purpose? So lots of things to think about and hear some more questions? How often do they see each other. Are they pretending to be friends? And what do they have in common? All right, if you like this picture for, like, this question is good and right, a little bit and then we'll go to our last section where we're gonna mix and match some of these pictures and see what we can do with that. 7. Idea #6: the last idea like us to discuss is how you can mix and match different pictures and find connections between them that will help you write your story. And it's interesting because human brains are wired to find patterns and find connections, find meaning, even when they're look no obvious connections or where no connections exist. So what I did here is I took some of these pictures, put them together and try to find some connections between them. Let's take a look. So let's say these three pictures and actually what you can dio. If you have been writing, you're a scenes. You can take what you have written and see if you can find connections between the descriptions that you wrote for each of these pictures. Or you can start by combining pictures and then finding connections. So here's what I what I did here. Ah, the 1st 1 Remember this girl in the bench? Maybe she's looking for a long lost relative and that she is in the city first tried asking for directions or trying to figure out where that relative is, and maybe she finds that relative in that mountain hut. Or maybe it's something different. Maybe she's a famous writer looking for a peaceful place to write and that she's looking back to the day when she said on that bench all alone. And she is thinking about what she learned about herself then and that her knowledge, her lesson of the day, maybe shaped the rest of her life, right? So you can try to go with these ideas or something different. See how you can figure out connections between these two pictures. Or you can take these three. What is this story about? Is it a story about the reunion many years apart? And if you look at the third picture and the girls the young woman's expression, she looks a little bit disappointed. So maybe this reunion was disappointing in some way. And maybe that can lead you to a larger question about childhood memories. Are they accurate? How the US time changed the events in our mind? And what is the future of this couple? Who are they? And we'll do one more. Remember the young woman taken pictures? Is there a story about the camera that she has that's possible? And the look at pictures two and three. What are the similar layers use between this abandoned building and Washington D. C. Why are both places important to this woman? Who is she? And who is she with? All right. 8. Conclusion: Thank you for watching this class. I hope you enjoyed it. And I hope that it gave you some new ideas for your stories or for your free writing sessions. Please post some of your ideas in the project section of this class. I'd love to see what you came up with. Thanks again. And I hope to see you in one of my other classes soon. Good luck with your writing.