During a random conversation a while before I originally wrote this article, I was asked by someone to come up with random ideas for romance novels.
Although I thought that this would be an extremely challenging thing (since romance usually tends to be a background element, if anything, in stories that I write), I was actually able to come up with two vaguely ok story ideas within the following hour. They didn’t turn into actual stories, but I’m still surprised that I was actually able to think of the ideas in the first place.
So, for today, I thought that I’d talk about how to come up with story ideas for genres that you don’t normally write in.
1) Work out which part of the genre you like (and which part you don’t): If you have to plan a story in a genre that you don’t normally write in, start by asking yourself what you do and don’t like about the genre in question. When you’ve found the things that you like, then focus on them.
Although this won’t give you an instant story idea, knowing what you do and don’t like about the genre in question will point you in the direction of the basic story types that you’ll be best at planning. So, it will give you part of a story idea, although you’ll obviously have to think of the rest.
For example, in romantic fiction, I prefer stories where the romance is either a pre-existing thing at the start of the story or an inevitable thing. I’m not really a fan of stories that involve love triangles, affairs etc.. since this adds a lot of unnecessary tension and emotional awkwardness to a genre that is supposed to be uplifting and reassuring (albeit with some light dramatic conflict). So, knowing this, I was able to know a little bit more about the basic types of stories that I’d be best at planning.
2) You know more than you think you do: If you’ve ever seen a sci-fi film called “Limitless“, then you’re probably going to guess what I’m talking about here. In this film, the main character ends up in a situation that allows him to access literally all of his memories. This means that, thanks to lots of things he’s seen or read about briefly in the past, he instantly becomes a genius. The basic point of this film is that we absorb a lot more information than we actually remember.
The same is true for genres that you don’t normally write. Chances are, you’ve seen or read more things in this genre than you think – even if it’s just mixed with other genres. For example, if you’ve never read or written a horror story before and haven’t seen any horror movies, then you’ve probably still seen films, TV shows etc.. that include elements from the horror genre.
So, think carefully about all of the things that you have seen or read that include elements from the genre that you’re going to use in your story plan and see if those elements can teach you anything about how to tell stories in this genre.
3) Your own version: One of the best ways to plan a story in a genre you don’t know much about is simply to think of your own version of it. In other words, if you read a story or saw a film in that genre which you actually liked – what would it look like? Once you’ve worked this out, then coming up with a story plan becomes somewhat easier.
Yes, it might involve adding elements from other genres to your plan or it might involve using literary techniques from other genres, but it will help you to think of a story idea that is actually enjoyable to write about.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂