How to Find Story Ideas | Julia Gousseva | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Mistakes and Suggestions

    • 3. Writing about Yourself

    • 4. Writing about Your Surroundings

    • 5. Where to Get New Ideas

    • 6. What is a Good Idea?

    • 7. Exercise #1

    • 8. Exercise #2

    • 9. Exercise #3

    • 10. Exercise #4

    • 11. Exercise #5

    • 12. Conclusion

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About This Class

Do you want to try your hand at creative writing but not sure where to start? Do you have trouble coming up with ideas? Or do your ideas seem to vanish as soon as you sit down to write? Do you worry whether your ideas are good enough?

In this short class, I will show you a number of proven ways to generate ideas, develop them, and keep finding new ones. We will discuss the differences between good ideas and bad ideas and do a few fun writing exercises to spark your creativity.

Meet Your Teacher

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Julia Gousseva

Writer, Creative Writing Teacher


Julia Gousseva

Writer, Creative Writing Teacher

How to Write an Original Short Story

Have you always wanted to write fiction but don’t know where to start? Have you started writing but got stuck and don’t know how to finish? Do you have ideas but find it hard to develop them into a complete story that makes sense? Or do you experience writer's block, get stuck, and lose motivation?

If you have experienced any of these problems or if you simply want a clear and specific way to develop your idea into a story, you’re in the right place.
This course will present an approach to writing stories that I have developed over a number of years and refined with my students in face-to-face classes.

This approach is a step... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi. Welcome to the class of developing story ideas. One of the questions that beginning writers tend to ask is how to come up with story ideas . A lot of times they're concerned that somehow they run out of ideas or will never be able to find a new idea. Once they found one that's not true, ideas will lead to more and more ideas, and this class will help you develop best off coming up story ideas. So you don't have to worry about running out of ideas. At the end of the short class, you realize that you don't need to wait for inspiration or hope that good idea just comes. You know exactly how to find them and you know exactly how to develop them. We'll talk about starting with consistent, realistic and sustainable writing. Habit will discuss not bigs, that you can start when you start writing and waste development. Expand them into more and more interesting ideas will also do a number of exercises that will help you sustain that habit and start writing interesting stories. Well, let's get started 2. Mistakes and Suggestions: story ideas are all around us. You can find them in your own life. You can find them in lives of others. You can find them in news reports in history, books, anywhere you look, their story ideas. And I think the main reason that beginning writers, especially beginning writers, sometimes have difficulties finding story ideas is because they make certain mistakes, and they don't believe that finding story ideas is a skill. Think about this for a second. If you think about finding story ideas is a skill, then it becomes a much less mystical and mythical process. It's a skill right so it can be acquired that can be learned and thought and in this class will talk about how to do that. Let's start with mistakes that a lot of beginning, rather stand to make. One is waiting for inspiration. I think a lot of writers believe that the act of writing requires sitting down and typing and putting words on paper, but they believe that ideas are supposed to come by themselves and that's not true. Ideas can be worked out and ideas can be developed, so don't wait for inspiration. Another mistake is not believing in yourself. A lot of writers like to read, of course. So if you pick up the best American novel or the best Russian novel and you read it and then you start writing yourself, you tend to think while I'm not as good as this person, look how well they right, I'm never going to be like that. So might as well just give up now. And that's, Ah, it really bad attitude. That's the wrong attitude. What you're reading this masterpiece published book in front of you is the work off many, many years and the work that that's not the first thing that came out of this writer span or computer. So don't think that you cannot acquire that skill. Start small, start simple. And before you know what, you're gonna be writing pretty good stories. Another mistake is not taking enough interest in life. And of course, if you're a writer, you're going to say, Well, what do you mean not take enough interest in life? I like people. I'm interested in people, and this is a point that I have, ah, some difficulties with us. Well, I think we all do as human beings within to spend time with people who are like us, and we understand people who are like us, and we tend to not analyze in depth people who are different from us or within to dismiss them or kind of judge them too quickly. And that's a mistake a writer should not be judging. A writer should be portraying life. So what is your writing about the villain, the serial killer? In lots of criminal, your goal is to get into the mindset of the person not to justify their actions but to understand their thought, process their action process, and then you'll be able to develop that character more and develop the ideas behind it. Character more so. That's what I mean by interest in life. And also the pew believe that our own lives air Not interesting enough. We always think that real writers live in some exotic setting, and they have these exotic adventures. But think about it for a second. There's no place in the world that that has ah ah, high percentage of writers. They're spread out all over the world, different different cities, different villages, different continents. What's exotic to you is, ah, everyday life for somebody else. So where you live and the way you experience life is unique and exotic to somebody, and you will find your readers so believe. Please believe that your life is interesting enough if you write about it in an interesting enough way. So now let's look at some practical suggestions. What can you do to come up with ideas for writing and to start writing? The first thing to do is to develop a habit of writing. Maybe you can decide that you're going to write every day or every other day, and it doesn't have to belong. Maybe you're going to write for 15 minutes. Or maybe you're going to write for you're going to write 250 words each day. And even if you don't have a topic to write about, the act of writing will help you come up with topics again. They're not going to be amazing topics that first. Most likely, it doesn't matter what the goal here is to develop a habit of writing and the going along the same lines focus on quantity at first, see if you can challenge yourself and write a little bit more each day a little bit longer in terms of time or a little bit longer in terms of output. Another idea is to keep notes and files. You don't know when an interesting conversation is going to come up, or maybe when an interesting idea or experience is going to happen to you. So it's good. Teoh keep notes and files as an organizing your notes, maybe by topic by character by type of story you're interested in anything you can do to keep these ideas organized will help you when you sit down to write in the read off course . If you're writing mysteries, it's it's good to read mysteries. If you're writing romance, it's good to read moments. But also don't limit yourself to just your Jonah. Read other things as well. Read fiction. Read nonfiction your Children's books. Read anything that you can, because everything you read helps you develop a sense of style and helps you develop knowledge and knowledge itself leads to more creativity in leads to more ideas 3. Writing about Yourself: the most difficult part of any project is always the beginning, right? Starting something. So let's say you decided you're going to write every day you have your journal or you have your computer, you're ready to go. So what do you do? Well, you could start by writing about yourself. Keep things simple. Remember, your goal right now is to develop a habit of writing. You're not going for the best book in the world? Not yet. So what are your dreams? What are your ambitions? I'm sure you have some. Go ahead and write about them. Start writing. You could take a few days and write a bunch of different entries about it. Then you could take it to the next level. Make it a little bit more complicated. Think about the turning points in your life. Think about the factors that were involved in these major changes. What happened? Try to write as many details as you can. Don't worry about what's relevant. What's not relevant. Remember, you're just trying to get these things out of your mind and into on the paper. So think about anything you can remember and write about these things. Any details that you can think about the significance off each of these experiences and write about them. Then I called it still writing about yourself, but you can make a little change here. What you could do is, ah, take some of these events that you wrote about when you wrote about yourself and imagine stories about them. You can make some start making some changes. If you like history. You could imagine the person with the same kinds of dreams and goals and ambitions, but put them in a different time in place. What change would that make the your story. So the goal here is to keep the same issues in the same emotions, but apply them to different people in different circumstances. And again, this is still your journal writing. This is still free writing, so you don't have to worry about structure or plot or meaningful for your readers. This is for you. This is part of your developing that habit of writing and coming up with ideas 4. Writing about Your Surroundings: previous few lessons were talked about writing about yourself and then gradually apply in these issues and these ideas, these emotions that you experience to other people in other circumstances. And this exercise with this approach continues with that same idea off trying to expand your circle of issues in their circle of ideas. So what you could do here is think about your friends, your family members, and think about issues that they face. And you can make this issues more dramatic by changing some of the circumstances. And here's a quick example. Let's say somebody in your family lost a job, and that could be drink dramatic by itself. But maybe in your family, Maybe it was. I don't know, your teenage nephew. You have a job now. He doesn't, and it doesn't matter so much because he still lives with his parents rights. You could write about just that job loss, because for a teenager it could be significant, but you could make it more dramatic. What if this teenager who lost a job I didn't have any family and he had to pay for his own rent and for his own food? What if the teenager had somebody else to support. Maybe he had the younger siblings that he needed to take care off. So already this idea of a job loss, this event of a job loss has become a more dramatic, so feel free to start with an issue. But then, um, ask yourself questions. How can they make it more dramatic? How can they make it more interesting? How can I make this event more meaningful? And again, don't worry about how it's turning out. This is just free writing. This is still your journal writing. You're still experimenting. You can also choose a social problem and look at its emotional qualities and write about it . So I don't know. Maybe you can look at unemployment. You're not looking at this issue of unemployment in terms of statistics and how many people are affected. You're looking at it from a various small perspective, like we talked about your nephew, right, who lost a job. So this an issue of unemployment. You're looking at its effects on on one specific person, and you could look at any issue like that. And that's what will make it into a story versus into just a like a statistical report. You can also look at well, as you're writing, focus on specific people and look at those specific people and specific circumstances. And the more you describe those specific people and their circumstances, the better your writing style is going to be. And eventually, when you start writing stories, that's what you will need, focusing on the details and specifics. It's not always easy to Dio, but it's it's good to start this as soon as you can. 5. Where to Get New Ideas: another way to get ideas is to ask yourself of what if question, and I'll give you one example. Back in the 17 and 18 hundreds, stories about sea monsters were quite popular. Sailors would come back and we'll talk about these monsters that would attack their ships or that would cause all kinds of death and destruction. And, of course, nobody knew what the sea monsters were, and people started coming up with different questions and or the imagination started coming up with different stories. One person asked himself, What if a great white whale was this monster in? What if the enemy off this whale was the captain of a whaling ship? Does that sound familiar? That's homo. Moby Dick came about by Herman Melville. Another person asked himself, What if one of these monsters was a submarine? And there we have a 20,000 leagues under the sea by Jules Verne. So where do you get ideas once you've asked some of the what if questions. Once you've written about your family, friends and yourself, start expanding, read about current events and think about people involved. Think about emotions involved and right about those people. You could also observe strangers that you see in the restaurant in the park in the parking lot and start inventing lives for these strangers based on your emotional experiences and based on issues that you have written about you can against our there's something that happened to you and ask what if, like we did in an earlier lesson with this example of a nephew who lost the job well, what if the nephew had the younger siblings to support? What if the nephew was the only one in the family who could work? What if the nephew needed the money to finish his college education? And you can go on like that? You could also take a legend or a fear Taylor. A myth and the use. Modern characters rewrite it in the modern context of those air. Always interesting and fun, too right in front to read, and you can also find writing prompts online. Just Google writing prompts, and you can find all kinds of different ideas for writing in a lot of these, lead to interactive forums where you could post your responses to these prompts and read what other people wrote in and get feedback 6. What is a Good Idea?: up to this point. We've been talking about how to develop a habit of writing and write about things that are important to you. Write about your life, your surroundings, things like that and maybe after you've done it for a while, you feel that you're ready to come up with an idea for a story that your readers will be interested in. So what I'm going to talk about next does not apply to journal writing again. Journal writing. It's It's whatever you want, and however you want to write about now, we're gonna talk about how to evaluate if your idea is good enough for a story that your readers will be interested in. So let's start with what makes a bad idea. And the one test is to not July just on something that's familiar to you. Don't just say Well, I've heard that my nephews cousin's best friend's brother just dropped the five different banks, and I think I'm going to write about it and then published the book and make use the money for his defense. Well, let's think about it for a second, just because you know something like that will not make it interesting to the readers unless this person you're writing about is, ah, big celebrity and everybody would want to read about his or her life. So just because the story is familiar to you doesn't make it interesting to others importance. And this one is difficult sometimes that people say, Well, I've been working for this company that makes Ziploc bags for 20 years. I know a lot about it, and I spend my whole life doing it, so I really can write a story about it. And again, if that's important to you, doesn't mean that it's important to everybody else. So think about how can you make it important to others and even less drivel is example something like heaven a child or getting married or losing somebody close to you. Obviously, these air major events in anybody's life right there very dramatic events and the we think that because they're important to us because they've shaken us so much, our readers will want to read about them as well, and that's not always the case. Unfortunately, again, we have to think about how can we extract meaning from these events, and how can I make a connection to the readers. So again, just because in event is important to you doesn't make it automatically interesting to the readers. And the last one is truth. Somebody could say, While I'm going to write about my cousin, he's been married 19 times. It's amazing, and it's true. It truly happened. He he's on his 20th wife right now. I'm going to write about it. Think about it. For a second infection writer could come up with a story like that about some guy who was married 19 times. So just because it's true does not make it interesting to the readers. So the question with all of these and it's good to start with topics you're familiar with that are important to you. And if you want to write nonfiction or even fiction, you can base it on three events. But that's not enough. You have to make these things interesting to the readers. And now let's talk about how you can do that. So how can you translate those ideas into Good story isn't or how can you avail it if your ideas go to begin with? Well, one test is a test offsetting. Maybe you're talking about a guy who used to work with in car manufacturing, and now his factory closed down and he becomes a private eye or whoever so think about that . If he used to work for car manufacturing, where did you live? Where thus you live. Maybe he lives in Detroit, right? So that specific setting will make your world world unique and your ideas unique. You can think about other stories that could only take place in a maybe high school or in the law firm, or maybe in an oil field. So if your story could be moved from one setting to another without any change to the plot , then it could mean that the story is not as good as it could be. So take advantage of your setting and make a story unique to that setting. Make sure your characters are active. What you don't want to do is have a character who just went on there. I don't know, trip to Saudi Arabia. Now she comes back and she's sitting at dinner with all her family and friends, and they're all telling her about what happened to them. But she was gone and she just listening right that's not going to make for a good story. We want you mean character to be active, make that character do something right and not don't just let events happen to your character. Another thing is having a specific goal and make the gold visually dramatic. What I mean by that Well, let's see you have a character, and, uh, his or her goal is to find inner peace. Why not? Right? That could be a goal. So now let's think about how the goal could be accomplished if that inner peace is going to come from that character climbing Mount Everest and the overcoming the cold and the dangers and in the thin air and those kinds of things that will be very interesting, right? But if so, you can write the story like that, and then and then at the end of this adventure, they quite inner peace. But if the path to that inner peace would be just going to the monastery and sitting there meditating for 20 years, the story is not gonna work too well, right? So again, active character, interesting events, character doing something in an interesting setting. All those things would definitely help you make a story. Ah, better and more engaging. High stakes make the outcome important to the character. And high stakes doesn't mean that your character has to go save the world. If he or she doesn't do something, everybody's going to die is obvious. They're gonna invade. We don't have to write stories that are their dramatic and and that the major in scope. You could write about something small, But your character has to care about it. Maybe the characters trying to get a better job. And if the character just says, Well, if I get it, I get it. If I don't, I don't Then your readers will think Well, if I read this book, I read it. If I don't, I probably won't. You don't want that kind of a character. Even if it's a small goal, I want to get a better job. Sure, that's important to the character, and it doesn't have to be the issue of survival. Necessarily. Maybe your character's life dream was to get this this new job, and it's important to them for some specific reason. Show that reason. If it's important to the character, your readers are much more likely to be interested in your story 7. Exercise #1: so far in this class, we've talked about different ways to get into the habit of writing and the kind of things you could start writing about. And we also talked about how to analyse whether your story idea is good or bad. But the best way to get ideas and to write is actually to start writing. So that's why we're going to start with exercise. This first exercise is called in you identity. So think about the familiar character. It could be somebody that you know in your life. Or it could be a character from a book or from a movie or from history. So anybody that you're familiar with and put this character in you in new circumstances, maybe it's a new city. Maybe they got a new job moved in your school new country. So anything like that and the more unfamiliar the circumstances are into the scaring through the more unusual of the better maybe even a different time, right by machine type travel, and then let the character create a new identity for himself for herself, a meaning that the character has to adjust to this new life. They have to fit in in into this new life, something like witness protection program could be an interesting idea to. How does this character a justice? New identity? And, as you're writing this exercise, don't write about the new sedation itself. Too much Focus on character development. Focus on the way this character adjusts to the new identity, and we're going to see right 400 words. It's good to have a goal right than 400 words. A pretty nice, specific goal, and when you're done with it, please post it in the project gallery. I'd love to see what you come up with and the what kind of characters you write about. 8. Exercise #2: this next exercise I think you're going to really enjoy. It's about choices and choices is what creates tension in the story, right? It creates conflict and could even though create the drama. And we're going to start with the various simple cetacean but has a lot of potential for development. You're going to write a story or a scene where two characters want the same thing, but only one can get it, and the other one, there's no way the other one can get it. So who are these characters? What do they want? And how is that story going to work itself out and right? About 500 words and again, Once you finish, it doesn't have to be a completed story can be just some scenes. Some interaction of these two characters police, both within the project gallery. It'll be interesting to see what you come up with. 9. Exercise #3: This next exercise is one of my favorite ones because it forces us to be creative under certain constraints off the exercise. And these constraints are pretty specific. And sometimes the more specific the constraints are, the more creative we have to be to fulfill the requirements often exercise. So in this one, you're gonna pick one or both of these odd images. The 1st 1 is fish falling from the sky. It's imagine that wise fish falling from the sky. What kind of fish? Where are we? When is this happening? So imagine that the other one is a lawn sign that says, Ah, Wife wanted inquired within. And what I'd like you to do is write 300 words using one or both of these images in your little story and again. Once you have that, please post it in the Project gallery. It does not have to be a complete story, just anything that comes to mind. As you think about these two images, I look forward to seeing what you come up with 10. Exercise #4: This next exercise has to do with identity. But it's different from the one we've done before. It's a case of mistaken identity. Has that ever happened to you? Somebody comes up to you and says, Hey, John or Mary, I haven't seen them for such a long time. How How have you been since? And then they go into this whole story where they think they know you. And the more they talk about it, the more you realize this. You are not the person that they're talking about, their completely mistaken, but the more they talk about it. And the more convincing this sound, the more difficult is for you to say. Wait a second. This is a total mistake. I don't know. You have no idea who you're talking about. So kind of a fun, A little, uh, situation. And what I'd like you to do is the right the 300 words scene where your first person narrator is mistaken for someone else by a stranger. And of course, we have to make it interesting. Engy life. Most of us are going to say Well, sorry I'm not. Is that same person? Good luck finding the person you're looking for. But here, instead of argue in, your narrator is going to go along with this mistake and that your narrators should have some kind of a reason. Maybe they're just going in for a joke. Maybe they're trying to get something out of this observation. You can think of these reasons, and you can decide on the reason. But there has to be some kind of a reason. And they try to describe the narrator's conflicting emotions. They're probably embarrassed about this mistake, right? Maybe they feel proud that they can pull it off, and then they feel some sense of accomplishment. But also maybe they feel uneasy about it in terms of their morals and ethics there. They're essentially lying through personally by going alone along with this mistake. So try this exercise and the police posted in the project gallery. I'd love to read it and see what what you come up with. 11. Exercise #5: the last exercise we're going to do is about transformation and transformation or change is a very important concept in any story. A lot of times when you read something, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, somebody's memoir, we want the character to change, and we ourselves want to be changed in some ways by the character story. So for this exercise, I'd like the rightist scene where one character teaches something to another character. They could teach something practical, some sort of a skill. They could teach an idea to another character. And the twist on the story comes from the fact that this lesson should change the teacher, not the student but the teacher. And I'd like to write about 500 words explaining how the teaching experience transforms the teacher and when you're done with that Ah please posted in the project gallery and to conclude this class, I'm Let's take a look at this quote by John. Stand back ideas air like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen, and I hope this class will lead you to finding these dozens of ideas. You can start the simple like we talked about. Start by just keeping a journal, writing about yourself. And then the more you write, the more ideas you're going to write and the better your ideas were going to be. And soon you will be like this guy, lightbulb moments all the time in the writing. 12. Conclusion: congratulations. You finish the class. I hope you've all this less useful. And I also hope that it has inspired you to start driving into development. Consistent already. Have it. I hope you learn some ways and methods up to develop your ideas and ways to come up with more and more ideas. If you have done any of the suggested exercises at least most of the project gallery and that you have enjoyed the class, please leave a positive review. I would really appreciate it. Thank you.