Real Life can Inspire New Ideas

How art imitates—or inspires—your next big story

Over the last few weeks, I’ve explored how writers get ideas for their stories.

I tackled why that’s such a daunting question for some writers. Then, we explored various ways writers (or any kind of storyteller) can harvest new ideas. I even provided a few practical tips and tactics you can use to make sure you never miss a moment of brilliance.

Where can you get ideas for writing? Everywhere!

The biggest hurdle I see from newbie writers is that their idea for a story just isn’t original. “But it’s been done before!” is their common refrain. My friend, yes, it’s been done before. But not by you. If you want to write and finish a story others will hopefully enjoy, you have to let go of that fear.

Because, honestly, it’s just an excuse not to take the plunge.

Once you get over that, you have an entire world to explore for ideas. Even then, it might be hard.

Let’s start with what we know best: what’s really happening around us.

Here’s a little story that might keep you up at night:

Towards the end of 2003, Toma Petrica, an inhabitant of the village Marotinu de Sus, died. A short time after his burial three relatives of the dead man became ill. So Toma Petrica was suspected of having turned into a strigoi. Six people, all relatives and friends of the deceased, discussed the situation and decided to take action. That night they followed Toma’s brother-in-law Gheorge to the cemetery where they opened up the grave. They later declared that they had been drinking all night to have the courage to do what had to be done. With the help of the blade of a scythe they removed the dead man’s heart. They burned the heart. The ashes were collected and mixed with water [and drunken]. As could be expected, the victims of the strigoi got well again. Everybody happy. (Via: Shroud Eater)

It’s something you’d expect to hear from one of those morbid, “true crime” podcasts. This actually happened. The Romanian government even banned the practice after the story circulated and arrested the family.

A crazy story to file away for parties, right? Not if you want to write horror or supernatural gothic fiction. This can be the perfect jumping-off point for a great tale. What if your main character was one of the family members, against desecrating your relative’s grave? What if your main character was the dead man, horrified to learn—from the afterlife—that your family wants to dig up your corpse?

There are numerous ways you can take pieces of this story and fold it into something new. Maye this happened in space. Maybe their “ritual” failed and the man comes back for revenge.

In fact, this story helped shape a Silas Black story I’m developing, which will be available soon on Amazon.

Real life is always stranger than fiction. You can comb through news articles, personal anecdotes, and historical events for stories (or even pieces of stories) that can help shape an idea.

But what about stories from your personal life? That’s when things can get really interesting. Plunging the depths of your personal experiences, questions, or even fears will unlock a kind of probing, telling, and revealing fiction that every writer yearns to produce.

And it’s the area we will explore… next time.

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