In the Red Corner: Ideas outside of the ordinary
(This mostly works with Journalism, but there are things that fiction writers can take away from this as well).
I think I have said this before, but having our writers give us story ideas on Thursdays has been a blessing these past two quarters.
When my writers find themselves struggling to come up with ideas, I always make sure to let themknow that there are no such things as stupid ideas. Although we may get ideas that catch us off guard because they are not the typical “profile on this person” or “a preview on an upcoming event” or “what the ASEWU discussed this past week”, these ideas also force us to think on our feet as editors.
I remember hearing some ideas at a meeting that were deemed out of the ordinary, yet I thought to myself that these ideas have some novelty value to them.
A story idea about using sunscreen, can be turned into a piece about how athletes keep their skin safe in the sun. An idea about students’ reaction the deaths of Davy Jones can turn into a story about how college students have different tastes of music, or even how students, mostly the non-traditional ones, used to watch Jones and the Monkees with their parents when they were children. There could even be something there about some college students don’t necessarily music of their generation (like how some freshman would rather listen to the Rolling Stones than Justin Beiber).
Sure these ideas are not stories that can throw a reporter knee deep into controversy, or put themselves in a historical moment, but it can still be fun for the writer and let them flex their creative muscle.
I remember an exercise my adviser Jason Nix had us do for News Writing 101. He put us all in separate groups, and then asked us to give him 10 different topics. After being given these topics, he would make five groups of two topics, putting obscure topics like “Sports Fashion”, “Politics and Entertainment” and “Food and Finances”.
Our mission from Jason was to come up with as many story ideas that from these topics that would not normally be near each other in terms of generating story ideas.
With Sports Fashion, my group generated story ideas such as: The history of the Sasquatch uniform, what to wear when you do winter outdoor sports, and What kinds of clothes lie in Skitch’s (SFCC’s mascot) closet.
We took the ideas that seemed feasible, tweaked them a little bit and then assigned them to writers.
Although none of these ideas turned out any real stories for print, they inspired us to think outside the box, or as one of my writers told me “outer space thinking”, and come up with new ideas.
This can also be done for fiction writers who normally write one kind of genre. Mystery writers could use sci-fi elements to come up with various plot devices or quirky characters. This is where a lot of fanfiction, crossovers and shipping come into play. It may seem unconventional. but it can also be a lot of fun.
In short, if there is an idea that seems weird, it mght be a good one.