So, back in the depths of April, way back when the sun was shining, the birds singing and we were all predicting a long hot summer…oh wait…wrong start.* Anyway, back at the end of April I agreed to what seemed like a ridiculous challenge, set by Sinéad Keegan, to come up with one story idea a day that would fit in a tweet.
It all started a couple of days after a talk given by novelist Julia Stuart (author of The Matchmaker of Périgord among others) at university. A former features writer for daily newspaper The Independent, Julia explained how she transferred her skill at tracking down feature ideas to her novel writing, scouring newspapers and magazines for snippets of ideas that might one day work themselves into a plot.
Throughout my career, I have spent a lot of time coming up with story ideas, but your brain adapts to the requirement. So, while a daily news or features editor needs to be thinking about those ideas all the time, someone working on a quarterly magazine, like me, is probably going to have longer gaps between the bursts of idea generation. Listening to Julia, it was clear that she had trained the idea-generating muscle in her brain to always be on the look-out for inspiration, be it interesting people, unusual facts or nuggets of dialogue.
Which is when Sinéad came up with the masterplan: a tweet a day for a month.The rules were, well there weren’t really any rules, other than they had to fit in the tweet and there was no such thing as a bad idea. As you’ll see from the list below, though, the quality does vary. We invited other writers to join in and we got three or four playing along with us.
Of course, this is nothing new. Most writers know the value of keeping their eyes and ears open; the challenge is to be disciplined in the practice and to then form those snippets into something that vaguely looks like a plot. It’s easy to slip out of the habit – I’ve only actively produced one new idea since the challenge ended – but the important thing is I now know I can generate the ideas if I put my mind to it.
It was also interesting to note where the ideas were coming from - after all, it's the most common question people ask writers. Listing out all my ideas below, I was interested to note a) how many I’d forgotten as the month wore on, b) that some of them are actually halfway decent and c) just how broad the inspiration was. For example, two or three were generated by things occurring on the day – Eurovision, Chimney Sweep Day (yes that is an actual thing) – while some were inspired by other books or my travels. Others came from nowhere, more popped up because I happened to learn something new that day (I never knew The Beatles were banned in Russia), while another was nudged along with some character/setting suggestions from Sinéad when I was really struggling to make anything work in my head: see 28 May.
The not terribly surprising upshot of this is that ideas are all around us: they’re the people sat next to us on the train; they’re the contents of a newspaper report that got you hooked; they're the bow tattoos on the back of a woman's ankles; and they’re the things that you’re passionate about. I like to think of it as a window in my head somewhere that I keep open at all times. Ideas pass in and out of this window. Some float away almost immediately, while others settle, like a layer of sand. The trick is in sweeping that sand up and sifting it for the gold nuggets that might turn out to be your next plot.
On that note, try not to laugh too much at some of the ideas I came up with during #30days30stories. And if you want to follow other great #30days30stories writers on Twitter then check out the following: @sineadkeegan, @LucyFurLeaps, @emmastrong72 and @VivRaper
Woman writes final #30days30stories tweet and slips into Twitter vortex. Meets 11-yr-old self and tells her to ignore evil English teacher.
Daughter gets a nasty surprise when she discovers a confession to murder in her late mother’s notebooks
Corporate love affair takes dark turn when young man agrees to stash lover's 'divorce' paperwork. Then he spots a logo...
Sedate air of Chelsea Flower Show rocked by arrival of Made in Chelsea crew thinking they're attending a new art exhibition
80s Eurovision sensation turned builder has 2nd chance at fame after heard singing during music agent client's shower refit
Mid-class couple rob neighbours 4 kicks but when hubbie serves divorce papers will wife keep quiet or fess up in revenge?
25 yrs after car crash that damaged his memory happily married man has flashbacks that suggest now wife did it on purpose
Artist falls for infamous female prisoner during set of sittings. Sure of innocence, he helps her escape. Can he trust her?
Burnt out banker turned cheesemaker has to face past decisions when former employer turns up to buy local dairy farm
Married childless man's life in chaos when reality show Who's the Daddy? arrives with live camera crew and 10-yr-old son
Doctor's ethics challenged when wife's illegal immigrant brother turns up with dangerously sick child he knows he can help
Man regenerated from blood found on 400yr old dagger discovered on London dig escapes to seek revenge on murderer's family
Divorcée gets kitten 'to keep older cat happy' - opens pandora's box about the way her own relationships have turned out.
Pimp faces difficult choices when daughter of estranged sister turns up on the game
Discovery of antique netsuke in late grandmother's attic leads woman to retrace a journey to Japan she never knew gran took
19th C #orchidwhisperer lost in Cuban swamps hunting rare ghost orchid 'reappears' 125yrs later w/ 'key to eternal life'
When dead plants revive & her child is born with wings a young mum begins a journey that leads to an ancient faerie promise
50 yrs after storm damage, church bells mysteriously start ringing each time a murder occurs. Who knows and why?
Ice cream van man sees mob hit. Life spared for freezer delivery duty. All fine til local kid finds real finger in 99 flake
A 30-something-year-old woman gets kitten as joint bday pressie. V happy. The end. It's all you're getting out of me today
1960s Russia: Brit diplomat son causes international incident as helps local girl he likes get banned Beatles music on air
Chimneysweep finds portal to Victorian London. Falls for girl. Must choose era tho when modern building set for demolition
Beekeeping made fashionable after pushy producer sweet talks shy beekeeper into TV career. Good for bees, bad for beekeeper
Ageing illusionist's assistant w/ dark secret found hiding in asylum. Confronts past when persuaded to perform 1 last time
Moped repair man saves community art centre w/ musical interpretation of Joyce classic: Portrait of Mechanic as a Young Man
Celebrity yoga teacher framed for murder by dead client's ex-husband in order to boost his starlet lover's flagging profile
Two feuding brothers with rival indi coffee shops must join forces to defend against arrival of big chain café
Pizza chef hides anon poetry in takeaway box 4 girl he loves. She thinks its the delivery boy & asks him out
Famous sommelier loses sense of smell, hides secret with help of regular diner/greeting card writer.
Corp writer falls for enviro terrorist. Who's zooming who?
*Since this blog was first written up the weather appears to have taken a turn for the better and we're all now sweltering, while apparently in certain ice cream parlours it's too damn hot even for the ice cream.