One Way to Get Ideas for Writing Stories

Potential spoilers: If you haven’t watched Love and Monsters and plan to, you should know the following post has some potential spoilers.

Are you looking for an idea for writing your next short story or novel?

Are you coming up with nada?

Well, look out. The following is just one way to generate an idea for your next fictional work-in-progress. In fact, it could potential help give you more than an idea; it could possibly help map out an entire outline for your story.

Whether it’s for NaNoWriMo in November, or your own project any time of the year, you might want to try this method to get started with an idea for your next fictional masterpiece. Or at least have fun writing a story no one will ever see. It’s up to you.

I got this idea while watching the movie Love and Monsters, starring Dylan O’Brien. It’s a goofy apocalyptic, science fiction, young adult adventure with improbable science, but a total blast. As I watched it, I just suspended my disbelief and enjoyed it for what it is.

But afterwards, I thought, “I wonder how that story would have gone if it was a high fantasy?”

I started thinking of how Joel, the protagonist in Love and Monsters, started on a dangerous journey to find his girlfriend. What if instead of in a modern suburb in North America, it was set in a mythological land? What if the main character had to get from one village to another?

What if I took the premise of this movie and turned it into a fantasy?

I thought, “That’s a neat method for generating story ideas.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I figure a million other creatives have already come up with this. I haven’t researched or Googled this method, but I bet it’s out there. But here is my version. I’m not actually using the example below for my own writing–it’s just something I came up with for fun.

Let’s give this process for brainstorming a writing idea the stupid name of Movie Makeover Method.

Steps for the Movie Makeover Method

  • First, pick a movie (or tv episode, or novel) you are familiar with.
  • On notebook paper, make a chart with three columns.
  • Watch it again.
  • First column: As you watch it, jot down a general outline of scenes in the movie.
  • Second column: After you finish, summarize the action in each scene with a generic sentence. If you want, you may want to just skip this column and go straight to the next step. Your choice.
  • Pick the genre you wish to write your own story in. I chose fantasy because it’s pretty easy to makeover any kind of movie, whether a drama, romance, science fiction, etcetera, into a fantasy. You can even stick to the same genre.
  • Third column: Repurpose each scene from the movie into your new story. Change names and situations. Switch genders. Don’t worry too much about the details, just make a general statement.
  • Here’s a partial example:
Love and Monsters SummaryGeneric SummaryNew Genre (Fantasy) makeover
Governments of Earth destroy an asteroid heading toward Earth, but the chemical fallout mutates animals and insects into monsters. They kill most of the human life on earth.Major disaster.From over the sea, an enormous dragon, as big as a forest, is heading toward their land. The magicians from all the villages send a magic spell over the sea and destroys the dragon. But the magic from the dragon’s body and the magic from the spell combine and explodes over the entire land. All the animals of the land become dangerous, magical creatures and the people go into hiding.
Teenagers Joel and his girlfriend, Aimee, are getting serious in a car.Protagonist and significant other (SO) in a romantic moment.Warrior priestess Meagan Fernblood proposes marriage to stableboy Corrin Clandown.
In his town of Fairfield, Joel and Aimee are separated in the fallout.Protagonist and SO are separated.In her village of Tarnes, Fernblood and Clandown are separated as the dangerous magic sweeps over the land.
Several years later, Joel lives in an underground bunker. He is the cook for his group. He freezes when he faces danger, so he is not included when a group leaves the bunker to scout for supplies. He feels inadequate.Protagonist in hidden situation as an underdog; has a weakness.Fernblood lives in a cave with a group of other survivors. She is designated as a leader of religious ceremonies. She lost her powers and fighting skills when the magic swept the land. As a result, she isn’t allowed to go with the group when they leave the cave to scout for food, much to her chagrin.
Via radio, Joel comes across Aimee who is with another group survivors about thirty miles away. Up until now, he assumed she had died.Message from SO.A dying magician—who had been attacked by a griffin– arrives at the cave. Before he succumbs from his injuries, he gives Fernblood a message that Clandown is still alive.
A giant invades the bunker and kills one of Joel’s friends. He is tired of seeing everyone else in a romantic relationship besides himself. These two factors convince him to go find Aimee.Protagonist leaves on a quest to find SO.The griffin invades the cave and kills one of Fernblood’s friends. The members of Fernblood’s group no longer believe in the god she serves and stop attending her ceremonies. These factors convince her to go find Clandown.
As Joel travels through the suburbs ravaged by the apocalypse, he is attacked by a giant toad monster. A dog saves him. Joel calls him “Boy.”Protagonist gains sidekickAs Fernblood travels through the wilderness ravaged by dangerous magic, she is attacked by a hydra. A wolf, somehow untouched by the spell, saves her. She calls him “Tempest.”
Joel falls into the pit where dangerous creature threaten to kill him. Boy barks from the top of the pit.Protagonist and sidekick in trouble.Fernblood falls into a pit where phantom insects threaten to kill her. Tempest barks from the top of the pit.
Boy’s barking attracts the attention of some survivors named Clyde and Minnow. They rescue him.They are rescued by travelers passing by.Tempest’s barking attracts the attention of some survivors, an elf and a soldier. They rescue her.
Clyde and Minnow teach Joel some basics to surviving on the surface.Travelers teach protagonist survival skills.The elf and soldier give Fernblood advice on surviving the magical creatures she might encounter on her quest …
  • Etcetera. You get the idea. Do this for the whole movie.
  • Now take the third column and make changes to it two or three more times (or more) and you have your own plot or outline, unrecognizable from its original source.
  • Remember: there is nothing new under the sun. it’s okay to borrow other stories–or at least use them as jumping off points–and make them over into your own version.
  • Have fun!

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