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What’s Your Story Spark?

Story ideas for me, and many other authors, happen when a little spark hits. It may be during dinner, or a conversation with friends. It may be on a plane, on a walk, or playing with my children. A spark sometimes hits at the moment you least expect it.

So, what if you haven’t had a spark in a while? You can brainstorm to get your mind going! Like many of my writer friends, I use the “What if” method. Take a look at these examples:

What if…teenagers have to fight to the death on national television? (Hunger Games)

What if…a young woman meets a brilliant billionaire who draws her into a world of kinky sex? (50 Shades of Grey)

What if…an investigative journalist needs the help of a computer hacker to solve a cold case in Sweden? (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Sound good? It is!

But your story can also be about regular people who have their worlds turned upside down when something unexpected happens. Your spark doesn’t have to include UFOs, vampires, or a new world order. I’ve used the “What if” strategy several times to write Southern women’s fiction novels under my pen name, Lauren Clark.

What if…a travel writer on the verge of being fired gets one last shot at redemption…in Eufaula, Alabama? (Dancing Naked in Dixie)

What if…a spoiled rotten Southern belle’s husband decides to leave her for another man, taking his money and credit cards with him? (Pie Girls)

What if…two news anchors start a fistfight on live TV, and the only person capable of saving the show wants to stay behind the scenes? (Stay Tuned)

Once you have your story spark, write it down. Type it into your iPhone or Android, scribble it on your hand, or jot it on a Post-it. I have a running list in a file on my Mac. That list contains, at any given time, 6-10 story ideas that may, eventually, wind up as a novel.

I say “may” because a story spark has to have staying power to become a full-fledged book. The spark has to have depth, emotion, and enough power to keep a reader engaged for 300 pages. No small task!

So how do you know if your story spark passes the test? I’ll give you my thoughts on that next time!

For now, I’d love to hear about your story spark moments. When do they hit? Do you use the “What if” method? Where do you keep your list of ideas?

– Laura

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