Mining for Story Gold
In my last post, I wrote about the shopper’s insatiable need (nay, demand) for brand stories that entertain and involve. That hasn’t changed over the past several hours.
Shoppers continue to clamor for satisfying narratives. So what’s an unfortunate retail marketer to do when her last “once upon a time” was quite a long time ago?
Mine for them. Dig into the subconscious of the imagination; that place below the surface that is rich with veins of original ideas. Here are five more ways to help the creative thinker excavate story-able ideas:
Become an Eavesdropper
It’s OK to listen to other people’s conversations. I encourage it. (And not just in the service of finding a story. I consider it a rewarding Starbucks sport.) Observed verbal and physical interactions contain inspirational gems. How and why people speak and move they way they do are insights into personality; insights the retail storyteller can mold into narratives that ring true with authentic drama. So listen up and take notes. Just don’t get caught.
Fix a Flawed Story
Everyone knows of a story that would be perfect if only it weren’t for one or two glaring errors. Brainstorm what you would change about this story to fix the problems. Then, think critically about what other things might be different based on the changes made. If you explain that the lovers can’t be together because one of them has a sacred duty to their home world, elaborate on what that duty is and how it alters his actions throughout the rest of the story. Maybe that will trigger new “flaws” that, once fixed, provide fresh direction in the narrative. Continue until a completely new story is told.
Narrate Music and Imagery
Collect some music or images that are pleasant and inspiring. Imagine the story behind the sounds and the images. Who is the music about? What are they going through? What brought that character to the place depicted in the image? Narrate a story that matches what you see or hear. Then put aside the image or music, review your story, and edit out those parts that are less than appealing and replace them with better material. Some music and images will probably work better than others. Keep track of the characteristics of those prompts that work particularly well.
Borrow a First Sentence
Brilliant first sentences are provocative. Explore a list of famous first lines from favorite and yet-to-be-discovered novels. The latter is particularly powerful for idea creation.) Select some favorites. Put them atop a blank page and free write from there. After you have invented a few stories, edit out all the bits that don’t work and revise what’s left. Also get rid of the inspirational first line. It’s done its job.
Exaggerate Contemporary Issues
Many great dystopian works are warnings about current cultural issues. Just look at the news. Many say there is a growing income inequality gap. So take that to its most dramatic conclusion, where a single person owns the entire world. Or maybe a large website is the target of aggressive hackers, and said hackers are charging exorbitant prices for access to information. Embed a lesson for your story, one that might help people grappling with similar issues today. Maybe the key to defeating income inequality is to keep the rich from isolating themselves from the poor. Perhaps countries across the world must work together to wrest control from the powerful hackers. Then all that’s needed is a character to struggle against the problem and learn the lesson.
Finally, regardless of the path taken to new story ideas, immediately capture thoughts in writing. Inspiration is not a lengthy visitor.