It’s all well and good to know how to tell a good story, but how do you come up with the story idea in the first place? Here are some easy prompts to supercharge your creativity.
1. What’s in the news?
Editors love stories that respond to popular news items and current conversations happening in the media and community. Whether you read it, watch it or listen to it, the news is a great place to spur your story ideas.
Try comparing news stories. What are the differences? What isn’t being talked about? What can you and your friends add to the conversation? What are people in your social media newsfeeds saying?
You might find that there is a perspective that isn’t being considered. Hint: maybe it’s young people’s experiences! On an average day, only 1% of Australian news stories quoted a young person, so never doubt the power of your own voice.
2. What are you passionate about?
This can sometimes feel like a big question, but the things you care most about are often the things you’ll find the easiest to talk about. These might be global issues like climate change or human rights, or they may be more personal, like what’s happening in your local community or school. Maybe it’s the things you like doing in your spare time, like sport or music?
Try writing down all the things you’re interested in and reflect on why they come to mind. Then do some research. What do other people say about it? Do you want to see something change?
3. What is your life experience?
Where did you grow up? How has your culture, family, friends, school or work shaped your life? Maybe you’ve travelled, maybe you haven’t. Why or why not? What lessons have you learned, or not learned? What experiences in your life have left lasting impressions on you?
All of these ways of thinking about your own life can be the start of great stories. Sharing your story can help others connect or see the world in a new way. Whatever you’re comfortable with sharing, it’s powerful to tell people what it’s like to walk in your shoes.
4. How do you feel, and why do you feel that way?
Think about a particular issue, a memory or a recent event. What emotions arise in you? Happiness? Anger? Boredom? Jot them down. Then, think about why you have these thoughts and emotions. Is it because you have lived experience? Is it because of someone you know, or something you read?
Maybe there is a common thread? You’ll be surprised what comes up for you by going through this process. After all, “creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected” as William Plomer said, so start looking for those connections.
5. What are the stories of the people you know?
They say that everyone has a story to tell. Well, we reckon everyone has plenty! So ask your family. Text your mates. Talk to your colleagues. Put a call-out on social media, make a quick survey or run a poll. Interviews don’t always need to be formal, just by having conversations you can spark even more story ideas.
If you’re interested in writing for publications, it’s best to get familiar with what types of stories your favourite sites or magazines publish.
Check out the content themes. For us, it’s education, work, life and culture, and opinion. Look for gaps and opportunities that your stories could fill, and work through the prompts above, theme by theme. Thinking in key focus areas can be super helpful for when you feel lost for direction.
So remember: there are stories in what you know, and there are stories in what you don’t know. Don’t be disheartened if you feel like the ideas aren’t coming easily. Try out these exercises and you’ll be a story factory in no time.