We’ve all seen plenty of posts about finishing and perfecting the stories you’ve already started, the ideas you’ve already had. But what about coming up with new ones? Sometimes creativity abounds, and you have trouble sticking with your old stuff because there’s so many new distractions. Other times, writers’ block happens, and your story seems so bland and cliche that it looks like there’s to be no possible way to spice it up, and there’s no point starting something new because there’s nothing new in your head to go off of.

I’ve started to not even bother with “new” ideas. I start with something preexisting, and then make it my own. But you can’t tell I stole the idea originally, because I psychoanalyze it to death, and it turns into something totally different. Usually.

So here’s the method I came up with recently. (Although for all I know, maybe everyone does this already.) It doesn’t have a name, but basically I’ll take something, whether it’s a sentence or a phrase or anything, and go through it word by word. I’ll critique every possible meaning for every possible part. I’ll look at each word individually, contemplate different synonyms and antonyms and homonyms and all the other possible nyms, and then I’ll write down anything interesting that comes to mind.

Even if there’s no need for brainstorming, I’ll find myself doing it anyway, almost as a game. I start with pretty much anything: a memorable line from a movie, the chapter I’m on in my current read, whatever’s happening in the news. Anything at all. And you just psychoanalyze it. And then you psychoanalyze that. and that and that and that and that and

Alright, how ’bout an example. Let’s take part of a story and see this weird thingy in action. We’ll start from the very beginning…

“Once upon a time,”

Okay that’s enough, hold on. Let’s go word by word. First up: “Once.” So this has never happened any other time. What about something similar? What if it actually has happened before? What if it never happens at all? Or both? What if this story uses that infinite-parallel-dimensions theory thing? By saying “once” you’re also implying it never happens again afterwards either. What if it does? Can we change it to “twice upon a time” or “sixteen times upon a time?” And also, “time.” What’s that? Just seconds and minutes and hours, or something more profound and spiritual? What if there were Metric and American time units, like there are with temperature and distance? And since it’s “upon a time,” does this mean that 1. time is a physical thing, like a table that you can put an object on top of 2. there are many? more than one time? What’s so fancy about this specific time, that we have something being put upon it? Who’s putting it there, anyway? You? Me? Bob Dylan?

Maybe none of this makes sense to you, or maybe it’ll become something fun to fool around with next time you need an idea or just a laugh. That particular example started getting kinda sci-fi-y, but you can make the method work for anything at all. I use it for plots, too, not just worldbuilding. One time I had a huge plot hole involving some family drama with a character’s sister. So I just started thinking… “Sister?” What’s that? A girl sibling? What if it was a boy? What if it wasn’t actually a sibling? What if it was a friend instead? Or not even a human? What if everyone thought it was their sister, but then turns out they were adopted? Etc etc. Might sound silly, but eventually I found a pretty simple workaround, and I got the problem to fix itself!

So there’s my two cents for today. Hope you liked this post! 🙂 Then again, what is “today?” If you’re reading this tomorrow, will my two cents still count? Will it double to four cents? How come nobody ever says “here’s my (other number) cents?” And would that mean the advice is twice or even four times as good? What even is “good?”…

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SJ King

sarah king

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1 comment

  • This post was very unique! I’d never thought of words like that before, and if you think about them long enough, they start to become random nonsense in your mind. In the words of a character from Avengers: Infinity War, “All words are made up.”

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