Recently, I was walking down my building’s hallway behind an old guy with a cane. He was talking very loudly on his cell, and he said, “I am driving in my car, and I cannot take your call.” At that point, he turned down a side hall, so that was all I heard.
I went home and wrote what I’d seen in my story idea notebook.
The Story Idea Notebook
My story idea notebook is exactly what it sounds like: a notebook in which I store ideas. Here’s a picture of my current one, a gift from my son and daughter-in-law.
I find the notebook is most useful for short story material. If I’m working on a novel, I have a separate notebook for it that I use to gather all my ideas in one place.
I work on short stories only periodically, usually while I’m between novel drafts. So I need some place to store ideas until I’m ready for them. Then I thumb through the notebook to see if something in there inspires me or just catches my attention.
What’s in There
Here are a few glimpses of what’s in my current notebook.
Often I include things I hear people say. On a blog I follow, for instance, someone else told a story about an elderly relative who asked: “Why you always coming in here bringing them snakes?” That’s an intriguing enough line that it could be the hook at the start of a short story. Not one of mine, probably, since it has a faint Southern tone and I don’t write that. If you’re interested though help yourself.
I’m currently trying to learn Spanish on Duolingo, and in its attempt to create interesting sentences with the right kind of language problem, Duo comes up with some evocative lines such as:
In those mountains, the bears were able to dance.
When I was a baby, I knew how to cook
Sometimes reality show contestants say things that catch my attention. I recently watched old episodes of “The Amazing Race” and heard “How do they make champagne? Is it like wine and then they add club soda?” Bless that contestant’s heart. She’s now in my idea notebook.
A podcast I listen to is sponsored by the SimpliSafe security system which is apparently offering a camera that will watch your yard. One of the podcast hosts joked that he’d love to sit in his house and watch his yard all day. That could be the germ of a short story. It could go in a lot of directions. Maybe the guy is withdrawing from the world and watching it instead. Maybe he sees something intriguing. Who knows? The idea notebook is for ideas, and this one is in there.
Ideas Are Everywhere
I find that if I’m alert for interesting bits of life, ideas—like the man in my building on his cellphone–are everywhere. But if I don’t capture them, they’re gone by the end of the day. The same is probably true for a lot of writers. If it’s true for you, why not try keeping an idea notebook?