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Welcome back to day 2! (See yesterday for day 1.) Today's fiction-writing tip:

2. Keep a story idea file.

You probably come up with a cool idea for a story from time to time, but are too busy to do anything with it, and in fact aren’t sure you’ll ever use it. But still, it is a cool idea…so write it down! Keep a story idea file. I use a regular old Word document, but you can use a notebook if you’re old-school, or a note-keeping app on your phone, or whatever you like. This is a small file; this isn’t where you expand your ideas into full story outlines. This is where you write down a sentence or two about your idea, so that later, if you want inspiration, you can look at your list of ideas and spark your imagination with one of these lines.

Where do you get story ideas? Anywhere, really. Could be an anecdote someone told you about their grandma. Or a quirky story in the news. Or a vivid dream you had. A piece of art (visual, musical, you name it) that enthralls you. Anything that triggers your curiosity. For me, books of fairy tales or mythology are instant story-idea generators, so that’s another good source: take an old story you like (as long as it’s in the public domain) and tell it in a new way, with your own unique changes. (Given I wrote a trilogy based on Greek-myth characters, and also a novel inspired by a Christina Rossetti poem, I obviously am fond of this source of ideas.)

Gender-swap is another fun tool for adapting old stories or common tropes into something new. Imagine a Sleeping Beauty who’s male, and a female in armor trying to fight through the brambles to reach him. Or a Taming of the Shrew where the tamer is a woman and the shrew is a guy. POV change is also interesting: pick a character whose point of view we don’t usually see, and tell the story from theirs. (Disney’s Maleficent, for example.)

So brainstorm a few crazy ideas, even if you aren’t going to use them anytime soon. It’s a good exercise in creativity, and no one’s going to see and judge your file except you; and hey, maybe you will turn one of them into an awesome story someday.

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