Tag Archives: News

How to Get Story Ideas From Unexpected Headlines

No, this is not a how-to for creating fake news. It’s a prompt that opens a never-ending well of ideas for any fiction writer. I’m talking about how to get story ideas from headlines in the news. Try it out today and see what happens!

How to Get Story Ideas From Headlines: 4 Steps

A few years ago, I read a startling headline in a back section of the Sunday newspaper. It said “Man Likely Padlocked Himself in Bag Found in Bathtub.” I blinked twice, sure I had misread something.

Even after I read the article, I still couldn’t believe it. I was grieved for his family and friends, but I couldn’t help but see the possibilities for inspiring fiction. I wondered how it could even be done?  As a claustrophobic, I wondered, why?

This situation and article were surely stranger than fiction, but it prompted so many questions. Turns out questions are at the heart of great fiction, and you can use headlines to develop ideas all day long. Here’s how to get story ideas from the strangest news headlines.

1. Find Headlines

The first step in how to get story ideas from headlines? Look for headlines.

Find a newspaper and scan through the headlines. You don’t have to read entire articles to find inspiration from their titles. I have found that for fiction, I prefer to search anywhere but the front page. I usually know too much already about the events that make the front page, and I’m after something that prompts new questions, ideas, and worlds.

Look until you find a headline that immediately floods your mind with questions. Headlines that prompt a “Why” and “What if . . .” response are best. Some from today’s headlines:

Workers Unearth Mystery Buried in SC School

Family Car Parked at Charlotte Douglas [Airport] Was Filled with Ants. They Want an Explanation.

Parents Brawl During Youth Football Handshake Line

I found all of these headlines in about five minutes by looking up regional or state newspapers and clicking on the “local” tab.

2. Ask Questions

Once I find a few headlines that scream for exploration, I make a list of the questions one prompts. Again, I spend no time reading the article; I’m only mining the headline for ideas. Here are some questions I wrote down for my headlines above.

Workers Unearth Mystery Buried in SC School: The wording of this headline fascinates me. Buried IN school? Like inside a wall? What were they digging up? Were children present? What is the mystery? Who will solve it? Is it valuable and might need protection? Is it linked to an old legend or cold case?

My only question for the ant-filled car was, Did you fumigate it and what did you use? (I can’t seem to get rid of some ants here, so I might be a little caught up in my own problems to fully explore this one.)

For the parent brawl, I want to know about the relationships. Who started it? Was it between parents on the same team? Was it a mixed group of men and women? Who broke it up? How much irony can you pack in one scene where adults fight while kids shake hands?

3. Flip the Genre

Once you have a good set of questions for several headlines, choose the one that is most compelling. Some of my example headlines lend themselves easily to certain genres.

The “mystery unearthed” might well be mystery, suspense, or horror. The ants could be science fiction or magical realism (Did anyone else think of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ants from One Hundred Years of Solitude when you read that headline?). The parent brawl might be realistic fiction or the beginning of a crime fiction piece.

Identifying genre can be a short-cut to creating fresh ideas, simply because you can flip or twist what is expected.

What if the mystery unearthed isn’t suspense but a romance? What if the car full of ants becomes a witty children’s book instead of the horror story it appears to be? Maybe the parent brawl isn’t the beginning of a true crime tale but the opening to a space opera story where irony beams people into an antigravitational state. (I think I might have gone too far on that last one — I’m out of my depth).

4. Apply Story Principles and Write

Once you have those questions and a possible genre, identify your main character and give them a strong goal. Throw things in the way of getting what they want, and force them to act.

The story might go somewhere completely unexpected, but that’s the fun! I’ve had students write two to three stories in different genres using the same headline to show them how inspiration can go anywhere they want.

Stranger Than Fiction

Oh, and the guy in the duffle bag? Turns out he was a spy, but they reported he did indeed lock himself in the bag. Hmmm . . . I have a few questions.

(Yes, I apologize for my morbid insensitivity at reading about a man’s death and trying to spin fiction from it. I’m not fit for polite company. May he rest in peace.)

Real life might be stranger than fiction, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint when you are looking for story ideas.

Have you ever read any headlines that inspired a story? Share in the comments.

By Sue Weems
Source: thewritepractice.com

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Google to Sell Audiobooks, Teases 50% Off Your First Purchase in Leaked Banner

Back in November I brought you the news that Google was looking at selling audiobooks in Google Play, and now it appears the launch is imminent.

9to5Google reports that a last night a banner for the new audiobook section of Google Play went live in the Play Store. The banner linked to the audiobook section of the store. That section isn’t live yet as I right this on Saturday, but clearly that is going to change fairly soon.

Google to Sell Audiobooks, Teases 50% Off Your First Purchase in Leaked Banner Audiobook Google Books Google Play

The Play Store does have a few audiobooks in its Music section, but 9to5Google says the implementation has always felt a little sloppy. And in any case, those audiobooks aren’t listed in their own category. That makes them so hard to find that they might as well not exist.

Google Play via 9to5Google

Source: the-digital-reader.com

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Waterstones to Open Five Bookstores Before Christmas – Mostly in London

UK bookseller Waterstones got a lot of press last week when it announced plans to open 5 stores by the end of the year, and several more next year.

That is more new stores than we’ve seen from anyone other than Amazon, which has opened or announced 17 bookstores (16 stores, actually , plus one that isn’t official yet) in the past couple years, but what is more interesting about Waterstones new stores is where they are located.

waterstones_2867464b

Image Source: telegraph.co.uk

From The Bookseller:

Waterstones is to open five new bookshops before Christmas – with three named after the area they are based, in the spirit of an independent bookshop. The new locations are in St Neots, Epsom, Deal in Kent, Weybridge and London’s Blackheath.

The latter three shops are smaller in size and will be named The Deal Bookshop, The Weybridge Bookshop and The Blackheath Bookshop respectively. Stores in St Neot’s and Epsom meanwhile will carry the Waterstones branding.

At the same time, the company revealed it plans to open more shops in 2018, with one in Reigate already signed up and with “several more in advanced negotiation”.

The news means the retailer will have opened 20 new stores since it was bought by Russian oligarch Alexander Mamut from the HMV Group in 2011 and follows Waterstones’ return to profit for the first time under its current ownership earlier this year. At that point, managing director James Daunt told The Bookseller the chain planned to open at least 10 new stores in 2017.

The announcement will inspire confidence in the firm at a time Mamut is reportedly exploring a £250m sale of the chain via corporate financiers N M Rothschild, which surfaced last month.

The thing about these locations is that 4 of the 5 are located close to or in London (the one exception is located in the coastal town of Deal, in Kent). (Also, two of “new” stores were replacements for stores closed years before.)

Chris McRudden looked into the socioeconomic data for each new makret, and he noted on Twitter that Waterstones was essentially copying the same expansion plan that managing director James Daunt used when he still ran his chain, Daunt Books.

“Daunts built its business on locations in nice areas where people are rich enough to pay full RRP for books,” McCrudden tweeted. “James Daunt is rebuilding Daunts at scale with Waterstones.”

All the new Waterstones stores are located in areas with n excess of professionals with above average incomes, “a signal that Waterstones wants nice, safe middle-class consumers with high disposable incomes,” according to McCrudden.

“So it’s good news for the book business, I suppose. A stronger Waterstones is a bargaining chip against Amazon (not that Amazon gives a fuck, they build the Internet now). But I daresay it won’t reach a single new reader.”

By Nate Hoffelder
Source: the-digital-reader.com

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