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Stories From Beyond The Box

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I’m finishing off a draft and looking ahead to my next story. Picking through ideas I’ve got, I’m looking square in the eye of a fun story involving dinosaurs (yeah baby!) It’s way outside my normal style, which makes me consider how I dreamed it up in the first place.

Why So Serious?

Normally my stories are very serious takes on possible futures, but this one is a bit out there. If it were a person walking the streets, it would have “whacky-crazy-cool!!” printed on its t-shirt, possibly in a paint-splatter font.

This brings up an important point about variety. Variety is important. Not only is it more interesting for you and your readers, but by trying styles of writing outside your comfort zone, a writer can further develop his/her voice.

What If Your Ideas Were More Spontaneous?

So how do you generate ideas that force you out of your box? I’m not sure to be honest, but perhaps a clue lies in in the way I came up with this one. It was simply a What If, something that I had not started until recently. What Ifs are more spontaneous and less bogged down by over-thinking.

Normally, I would think of an idea and let it mull around in my head for a bit, largely because it’s not convenient to note it down somewhere at the time. In that period the idea may get dismissed, or become seriousified by my usual way of thinking.

Yay! I used an internet meme in my post!

If you make the decision to write down five or so What Ifs, you skip that process. Once they’re on the page in their raw idea-elixir form, they are less easy to dismiss, and somehow you take them more seriously, even if they appear wacky-crazy-cool.

Oh, and if you don’t use them, why not share them? Here’s a bunch of unused What Ifs generously shared by redditor FrederickCross.

Some Other Ideas

So the clue there is quick is best – don’t think about it too much and get something on the page. This immediately makes me think of free writing, which is another great way of unlocking unusual ideas.

I mentioned it in a post here a couple of weeks ago. This was in relation to unblocking yourself and writing through a problem, but free writing is more commonly used to generate ideas for stories. My tips for getting the most out of free writing still apply here, so go take a look at my other post if this interests you.

Speaking of other posts, spurring on your creativity in general might help you to write outside of your comfort zone. Most of the ideas in that post can be tweaked to point your mind towards something unusual. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries on subjects that are outside of your normal interests; get influenced by as wide an array of ideas as possible.

All these techniques can help your writing anyway, so are worth a try. But they might even allow you to dream up some unusual ideas that force you to write differently, enabling further growth in your writing journey.

Over to you:
Have you thought about how you can add variety to your writing? Do your stories follow similar themes and have a similar tone, or are they all completely different from each other? Do you use specific techniques to generate your ideas? Let us know below!

  • Craig

    While I rarely stray outside of my genre (that would be sci-fi) I don’t think I could get any more diverse with all of my different projects. I guess part of me feels like its not efficient to tread the same ground twice. Could it be because for all my projects I employ massive amounts of mythology? For instance, my time travel project has so much back story to it, I don’t think I could devlop a different time travel mythology and find it satisfying.
    I do however use the same themes in pretty much all of my projects. And I don’t necessarily think thats a bad thing. One of my oft repeated themes, for example, is the nature of celebrity. Exploring how that works in various mythologies (time travel, cyberpunk, space opera) is both interesting, and can give your work a kind of throughline, no matter what you’re writing.
    I guess I’m kinda lucky, in that I have a fertile imagination, and I have all of these different worlds to play in. I also have a huge idea bucket full of ideas and half written stories, pitches, treatments and the like.
    If, however, I wanted to try something completely different, either in terms of content or style, I will almost always explore that in the form of short story. And if that develops into something a little more serialised… well, thats fine with me.

    • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

      Well, I’m glad you have a fertile imagination. I used to pride myself on mine, but it no longer feels like that. The fires of my imagination need stoking I guess. But that’s fine – I’m coping!