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Finding Your Next Great Story Idea
Have you run out of story ideas? Venture out into the world and see how people are interacting in the 21st century? No need to visit exotic or expensive places. Here are three places to find great ideas for writing your next story or scene.
Walk in the park
There are coyotes in the woods surrounding the walking path near my house. Suppose one of your characters ran into a hurt coyote pup while he or she was out walking on the wooded trail. He stops to help it and a pack of adult coyotes chance upon this scene. What miracle will save your character? Are your thoughts spinning? You’ve just come up with an idea for writing a great story.
Visit your local health club or gym
I photographed two women wearing ankle-length skirts as they walked around the indoor walking track at my health club. They walked slowly, as if they were out for a Sunday stroll. Around them, members walked briskly, sprinted, or jogged, while these women talked animatedly, to each other. Are those long skirts their workout clothes? Will they change back into street clothes when their workout is done?
Many religions ban women from wearing pants. Was this a religious practice or a cult practice like the Jonestown religion in Guyana? Is one woman planning to make a break for it? Sounds like a great story idea.
Volunteer at your local high school
Do you want your young adult scenes to ring true? If you have an idea for a chapter featuring teenagers, you must perfect the lingo. You say that you have teenagers! I bet they don’t behave around you the way they behave at school. If you really want to know how preteens and teens talk and act, you need to spend time immersed in their environment. Volunteer to monitor the school cafeteria. There, you’ll capture their totally uninhibited behaviors. Peek into the school library and see what they’re reading … or not. Share one of your short stories with an English class and find out what they think.
When Noel returned to her office, four of Zarah Fisher’s friends, Noel’s former students, waited to see her.
Marisol, a pretty Latina girl, began stroking Noel’s suede jacket before she could shrug out of it. “Look, girls. Doc has on real leather over here!”
The other girls reached out to feel it too.
Eartha whistled and pointed to Noel’s feet. “Look at her shoes,” she gushed.
Noel smiled despite herself. She was wearing the latest from Italian designer Corey Coello, and it surprised her that the girls knew him.
“You think we live on Mars? Yeah, we know Corey Coello. You better not come out in these streets, Dr. Kennedy. We might have to jack you,” Eartha said.
“You can have real leather and Coellos if you put in the work,” Noel told them.
“Dr. Kennedy sure is puttin’ in the work. Look at her awards.” Ne-ne pointed to the plaques and certificates in Noel’s display case. “You really win these, Dr. K.?”
Ne-ne’s brown hair cascaded down her back in waves, and Noel wished she could scoop her up and put her on the pages of a fashion magazine. Instead, she said, “No, I demanded they give me some award-looking papers to impress my guests.”
They all laughed.
“Ooh, the mouth on you,” said Marisol. “Don’t mess with Dr. K. She’ll get you straight.”
“You didn’t come here to compliment my awards or my smart mouth. What’s up, Ginny?” she asked the quiet girl who sat cross-legged in the center of a worn blue couch in the corner of Noel’s office.
As if on cue, the others took seats around the room. Noel noticed they sat facing the door, and nobody chose the chairs by the windows. Still, they felt comfortable enough to sit with their legs tucked beneath them, Indian style.
“We came to tell you we’re sorry for your loss, Dr. Kennedy,” Ginny said.
Noel was taken aback, and she breathed in deeply. She wouldn’t get emotional in front of the girls because it would shake them up to see her cry, but their thoughtfulness meant everything to her. “Thank you, Ginny. Ladies.” She looked around at each of them. “I’m sorry for your loss too.”
They fidgeted and fussed with their hair for a moment.
Eartha sighed. “Dr. Kennedy, we gotta know who did this. We rolled with Zarah, and we don’t feel safe. If someone killed her, then maybe they’re coming after all of us.”
“Were you guys involved in something?” Noel asked.
“We’ve been talking and . . . hey, you know us. We’ve always got something going but . . . nothing to die for,” Eartha said.
“Can you think of anybody who’d want her dead?”
The girls shook their heads.
“You guys still work for Simpson, right?” Noel said. “Have you stolen from him?”
“We only work for him sometimes. We’re not locked into anything regular. That’s how Zarah negotiated it. We work when we want. We walk when we want,” Ginny said. “If he didn’t want it that way anymore, he would’ve told us and given us a choice. Work regular or get out. But he wouldn’t kill us.”
“And you know this because . . .?”
The girls looked at each other.
“Warren is rough. He’s crazy dangerous, but he ain’t sneaky,” Ne-ne said.
What would you do if you were the daughter of a cult hero who boasted a past life full of exciting, colorful exploits?
Suppose the thing that made your mother a cult hero was also inside you.
Now, imagine spending your whole life trying to hide it—until you shared the heart stopping death of someone close to you.
Supposed that death brought you face to face with the gift of the neon houses.
New Chicago and its neighboring town, The Southland, are vastly different worlds in circa 2087, but Dr. Noel Kennedy is an expert at navigating both worlds. As the Deputy Chief of Schools in The Southland, Noel has perfected being a solid, middle-class citizen. Not even her husband, Fredrick Kennedy, truly understands what she is.
When Zarah Fisher, Noel’s young protégé, is murdered on a deserted street in The Southland, Noel knows the exact moment Zarah takes her last breath. Though miles away, Noel feels the girl’s terror, and hears her anguished screams inside her own head because of an inheritance that has left her with extraordinary gifts.
Can Noel find justice for Zarah without risking it all? Murder, mayhem, and suspense abound in this action-packed page-turner.
More than a mystery, The Neon Houses thrills the reader with scenes of a futuristic 2087. Autoplanes, body planes, and flying buses are the norm. Robots and androids cook, clean, and serve the affluent, while dystopia lurks just around the corner.
Linda Mims is a writer, a dreamer, and an educator, who hails from a quiet village just south of Chicago. Her stories are mainly about urban characters who are engaged in mystery and mysticism. Her hope is that while entertaining and informing, she’s also sending the message that humans aren’t that different and all each of us want is a better world.
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