The Idea's the Thing

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The Idea's the Thing

Below are several archived tips from the former “The Idea’s the Thing” category. Though some tips have been edited by the current guru, James Gapinski, most are the original creations of past Life Tips gurus.

Stories from life experience

Tip edited by James Gapinski

The Tip:

Fiction doesn´t have to mean you make everything up. You can pull stories from your own life

experience or borrow them from other people. Don´t be afraid to write your own life story.

A Note from the Guru:

The former Life Tips Guru that posted this tip suggested "Just be sure you have had sufficient time to gain perspective on your own trials and tribulations. Only in hindsight do we see the whole picture." While this is partially true, I'd also suggest that you can gain perspective through the writing process itself. Creative writing can be a mechanism for working through complex emotions and issues in your life, fleshing out your true thoughts on paper.

Beauty and the Beast: The magic of character pairs

Sometimes you can create fictional magic just by placing two opposing characters in the same room. Consider opposites or "incompatibles" from real life that might make sparks on the page:

*Spunky waitress and self-absorbed tycoon
*Priest and drug addict
*Hippie chick and JCrew guy
*Southern belle and biker dude

Try making your own pairs--it doesn’t have to be about romance. It’s about personalities that breed conflict and thus readability.

People watching

Tip edited by James Gapinski

If you´re looking for a fresh story element, try eavesdropping in the park or while riding the subway. Carry a notebook around with you. Jot down the wacky things people say and do. Describe an unusual looking person you see on the street, and try to imagine what his life might be like. Our best story ideas sometimes come from strangers we never get to meet.


The seeds for stories are often in situation. On a piece of paper, make a list of common situations in which conflict might arise. Let your imagination take over, and experiment with varying degrees of magnitude. My suggestions are:

*Getting a root canal
*An anniversary dinner
*A cross-country flight
*Getting called into Human Resources

Now make your own list. Be creative!

Small moments of time

Stories often come out of small moments, in which there is only time enough to perform a brief task or action. Think of things that happen in your life that, while taking only a moment our of your day, can nonetheless become important.

My examples:

*Reading a letter addressed to someone else
*Kissing someone
*Speeding through a red light
*Stealing a wallet

Any one of these could combine with character elements to create a readable story. Now make your own list. Be creative!

Character´s struggle with himself

Faulkner said that the only thing worth writing about was the struggle characters had with themselves. Generate story ideas along this line.



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