99 (Seeds for) Stories

I’ve had a twitter account now for about a year. Mostly I’ve been using it to let folks know when I update my sketchblog. Storythinking, this blog you’re reading at the moment has been sitting fallow for far, far longer than that. I’d been intending to use this space to write essays about the process of fiction writing and storytelling. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to make the time to write any long form essays. This last Thursday I finally figured out a use for both accounts.

I know there are folks who claim that a good story idea is gold. Once in a great while it is. Once in a great while someone comes up with a story idea that is both original, unique and compelling enough that the resulting story/novel/comic/movie/tv series makes the originator of the idea a good chunk of change.

But that’s rare. Most story ideas are just that. Ideas. Seeds for stories. Whether or not they become stories is less the result of the idea than the execution of it. Dracula is a good example. The basic idea is “A vampire appears in modern day England and begins preying upon the populace”. But that’s not the first time the idea was used. It was the basis of The Vampyre and Varney the Vampire as well. Chances are, however, unless you’re a fan of vampire stories, you’re never heard of those earlier tales. Neither of them have made the ultimate transition to public awareness – there are no film or television adaptations of those works. Heck, neither has been translated into comics.

My point is that it wasn’t the idea behind Dracula that worked. It was how Bram Stoker executed the idea and told the tale. 78 years later Stephen King took the same idea, changed “England” to “America” and wrote ‘Salem’s Lot.

How many Coming of Age stories get told? How many Alien Invasion stories? Boy meets Girl, Girl hates Boy, Boy gets Girl anyway stories? Show me a storyteller with only one idea and I’ll show you a very, very unlucky storyteller who needs to practice his art more. Because ideas are easy. I’ve had more story ideas in my life than I’ll ever make use of. I’m not saying that because I think I’m special. Or brilliant. I’m also not saying that all (or even most) of my ideas are good ones. I’m saying I have a use for my twitter account.

I used to write my story ideas down and put them in a box. I’m pretty sure I’ve got the box somewhere. Probably in another box. The ideas were simple, one sentence story seeds. I rarely included any plot details. Plot and story get written together. I just wrote down the ideas to get them out of my head. And that’s what I’ll be using twitter for, for a while at least.

I’ll be tweeting 99 story ideas. They may be good. They may be stupid. They may already be the basis of a story or five somewhere in the world. With Twitter’s 140 character limit I’ll be keeping the ideas as streamlined as possible. I’ll just be tweeting the ones I’ve never run in to anywhere else. I’m using the hash tag #99stories to track all the entries. I’ll be posting the tweets (occasionally with comments) here at Storythinking for those who avoid Twitter.

If you’re a writer or an artist and want to use one of the ideas, be my guest. You have my blessings. You may have noticed that I spend a lot more time drawing than I do writing. I’d love it if you let me know and showed me whatever you came up with. If I post an idea that sounds like the basis of a story you’re read please let me know.

This should be fun!