How to Cultivate Great Story Ideas

By: Minda Burr

How do you develop an idea? Where do you even begin if you don’t know what you want to write next? So, I am going to ask you SIX KEY questions, and I want you to answer them from your from your heart and soul – from your gut – instead of from your conscious mind, because that is where you have access to your own unique ‘authentic voice’.

  1. The most obvious question – What do you feel passionate about? What is genuinely interesting to you? And if you’re writing a screenplay, novel or stage play — what characters would you like to dive into, live inside, talk like and behave like for awhile? You are going on an adventure and a personal journey with these characters, so you might as well enjoy yourself. What we are emotionally connected to, we are much more committed to. Obviously Nora Ephron was intrigued by the dance of Love between charming, intelligent and witty characters for example, in “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” – while the Cohen Brothers preferred to swim in dark waters with deviant characters in “Fargo” and No Country for Old Men”. What water do YOU want to swim in??
  2. Are you a great observer of life and the “human condition”? Does it fascinate you to the point that you start conjuring up scenarios about where Life might be going? Suzanne Collins did a brilliant job of that in the “Hunger Games.” She took two somewhat disturbing trends in our society today and exaggerated them in the future in a fascinating way: First, she takes the ever widening gap in our society of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and catapults us into a future where the rich are now living outrageously opulent and SELF-indulgent lives in separate cities! They now live far, FAR AWAY from the deprived poor who live in concentration camps and are forced to hunt for their own food to survive. In the second current trend, she highlights our society’s obsession with ‘reality shows’ and takes us into a future where the most popular entertainment for the rich is watching the poor people stalk and kill each other. Then the victors become media sensations just like the Kardashians are today! Fascinating.

    QUESTION: Is there something that YOU see in the future that could be the natural outcome of what the way we are living now?

  3. Are you FUNNY? Do people think you are witty and they laugh a lot when they are your presence? If you can do it in person, you can put it on paper. If you are funny that is GOLD – do not squander your talent. And you have SO many arenas in which to cultivate it.
  4. Are you able to laugh at the ironies of life and how incredibly idiotic we are sometimes as members of the human race? Nobody does that better than Larry David did with “Seinfeld” and now “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. He has such a UNIQUE and interesting slant on everyday reality and he writes such flawed characters in mundane and sometimes ridiculous circumstances, that he allows us to laugh at ourselves for being human. If you have that gift, SHARE it.
  5. What knowledge or EXPERTISE do you have that is worth entertaining other people with? Look at what a Law career did for John Grisham and his series of best-selling books that became big movies, like “The Firm” and “A Time to Kill?” What expertise do you have that could be the foundation for a great idea?? It doesn’t matter if you’re a former bronco bull rider or a reformed sex addict – there could be ‘Gold in them there hills.’
  6. “Seemingly” OUT OF NOWHERE GEMS. What ideas have popped into your head out of nowhere and made you think, “This would be a great story or topic!” Pay attention to those! Those ideas out of nowhere are your heart and soul talking to you. They can also come from the Collective UN-conscious. Which means, that if you don’t write about, it someone else WILL. When those moments of inspiration happen – write them down immediately or call yourself and leave a detailed message. Or get one of those recording devices. Don’t assume you’re going to remember it because you most likely won’t. Inspiration comes in a FLASH – and is often gone like a puff of smoke if you don’t record it.

Writing in the “ZONE” – Part II

by Minda Burr

In my last entry, I talked about the difference between the right and left brain and how important it is to give the RIGHT BRAIN FULL REIGN in the first draft of anything because it’s where our intuition, imagination and creative impulses come from! And today we’re going to talk about how you can enhance and stimulate the right brain to allow yourself a more brilliant and joy-filled writing experience. But allow me to digress for a moment for an important reason:

We are all born with “playful” spirits… It’s the ESSENCE of who we are when we come into this world. We don’t even start to develop our critical mind, as well as logic and reason until we are about seven years old. That’s why children’s imaginations are so HUGE and they have so much freedom to play and create. It’s also why they believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and the Easter rabbit because it tickles their imaginations and lets them live in a world of WONDER.

What’s important to be reminded is that our playful spirits never leave! They don’t abandon us when we turn 30 and say, “See you later sucker!” No, they STAY with us for the rest of our lives. But unfortunately, here’s what happens: we start to get conditioned by society’s left brained “logic and reason” and our playful spirits get pushed down with all the “shoulds” and “have tos” of life. We are forced to make responsible, sensible and often times money-making (rather than creatively satisfying) decisions. Then we eventually become hostages of our own left brain -. the so-called logical, rational part of our brain. You know the part of us – who wants to make smart decisions. And our spontaneity gets suppressed, then our playful natures get suppressed, then our imaginations get suppressed and our creative genius gets pushed even further down into our psyche.

And when that happens, it gets pissed. We can literally feel the tension and stress in our bodies because our playful spirit – which is the essence of who we are when we’re born – has been moved to the back of the bus and it is NOT happy. The worst part is, our playful spirits are our IMAGINATIONS greatest ally! They are the best of comrades because they fuel each other… We know nothing works well when we are constricted – not work, not relationships, not sex and most certainly not the “creative process” – whether it’s acting, painting, dancing or writing – you name it.

I am a big believer in Source energy… I believe that we are all conduits of the Creative Intelligence of the Universe, and we are either open conduits or we are painfully CLOSED. Which one has the better chance of accessing brilliance? Which one has a better chance of ENJOYING the process along the way?

So, it’s very important to cultivate being an OPEN VESSEL for the creative energy to FLOW brilliantly to and through us. And when that happens, it is so delicious. And you might ask, what about some of the tortured artists like Hemingway who created such brilliant classics? My answer to that is, he was DRUNK most of the time! His critical mind was out of the way! He let go of his resistance when he was fueled with alcohol. Unfortunately, he probably woke up with a hangover every day. But Hemingway was also a big adventurer and life LIVER. He was a world traveler, lived by his own rules, didn’t give a damn what anybody thought and was a hedonist of the highest order. He had great PASSION for life and women and FUN — all great fuel for freedom of expression.

I am in no way suggesting that we should be drunk when we write, but it leads me to one of the best ways that we can stimulate our right brain: Delighting in our senses is at the top of the list. We literally experience the world through our five senses and they are all right brain stimulators. How can we invite a reader into a vivid story of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch – as well as deep feelings – if we are not present with and delighting in our own five senses? How can we immerse anyone into a world we are creating if we can’t even immerse ourselves?

So, how do we do that?? Delighting in your senses means to be fully “present” with them and GRATEFUL for them, whether you’re savoring delicious food, listening to great music, laughing your ass off at something funny, touching and being touched by people you feel love and affection for, singing, dancing, allowing yourself to be in awe of the beauty of nature. Getting out in nature, moving your bodies and paying attention to all there is to experience and enjoy in life. Watch how your creative channels open up, the more you feel ONE with Life… Meditation is also a great right brain stimulator, as well as other creative endeavors. I am also a jewelry designer and I truly believe creativity begets more creativity. Amen.