Creative Lurking - or - where to find ideas for stories

We’ve all been there.  We want to write but can’t think of anything to write about.  What to do, what to do?

There are several ways to find a topic.  Some work sometimes, some work at other times.  At least one will usually work with some thought and planning.

The first and best place to start is to think back over your own life.  It’s what you know the best and therefore the easiest about which to write.

There are probably some situations that turned out great.  Others probably didn’t.  Some situations took a different turn than you thought they would, and some might have gone better if you’d just changed something you did.  Any one of those can become a story if you just add some characters and some reasons why they did what they did, or maybe what you wish they’d done.

We also all have fantasies from time to time.  It might be that you just saw the new guy or girl at work or school and something went “boing” in your head.  Now, you keep wondering “what if”, and if they seem friendly, you’re wondering if they’re wondering “what if” about you.  

The fantasy might be just a thought in your head about what the perfect woman or man would be.  What if you could find that perfect person?  That “what if” is the basic plot to your story when it becomes “when”.  The rest of the story is what lead to the “when” and then what happened afterward.

We all know and have known a lot of people no matter how long we’ve lived.  Some we know hardly at all, and some we know very well.  If you look hard enough, each one of those people is a story waiting to be written.  Sometimes you can carve off bits of each, glue the bits together, and come out with characters that are more interesting than any single one of them.

The important thing about all the above is we write about people, so going where there are lots of people is another place to start.  In today’s world, and especially since we’re in the midst of a pandemic, it does take some determination though.  Here are the steps to creative lurking.  

First and foremost, unless you’re expecting some impending emergency, turn off your cell phone, put it in a pocket, purse, or case and vow to leave it there until you’re done. The same goes for all the other electronics we tend to carry around, including blue-tooth connected watches and mp3 players.

The reason is we need to be thinking about the people we watch.  What are they doing and what reason could we assign to them for doing it?  That requires uninterrupted watching and thinking.  We talk about being able to multi-task, but in reality, humans can’t really do two things at the same time.  We can only quickly switch from one task to another and we lose continuity of thought every time we make the switch.

Shopping malls are a good place to watch people.  Just ignore the roaming packs of teenagers and concentrate on the people actually shopping and buying.  Sit outside of or wander through some of the more unique stores.  Most of them will sell things for women but there are usually a few who cater to men.  Look for things that might seem to be a little unusual and then try to think of an explanation. That explanation will be the story you write.

That older woman browsing through the sexy undies  - why would she be looking at mesh bras when she has to be at least fifty and has breasts large  enough she really needs a lot of support? Does her husband need a little encouragement?  Maybe she’s fishing for a man and thinks she needs some better bait.

 Another woman, a pretty woman about thirty five, walks by wearing a T-shirt that says “I’m Magically Delicious”.  There should be at least six stories there.

That guy at the pharmacy buying warming lube.  There has to be a reason.  What if he looks gay?  What if he looks gay but isn’t?  What if he doesn’t fit the gay stereotype, but really is?

Walmart is another good place to people watch.  There are some strange people shopping at Walmart.  If you don’t have a Walmart, check out the videos on YouTube.  There have to be at least a few stories there.

Pay attention to current events.  No, not politics, although there are some pretty good stories there.  The problem with writing erotica about politics is no matter what you write, it’ll be something that really happened and nobody will believe you made it up.  They’ll think you just changed the names.

Pay attention to the stories that don’t make the headlines, and don’t pass up the “click bait” stuff that consists of pictures with agonizingly boring text and more ads than a free newspaper.  Find a picture and make up a story about what happened.

An old television program used to start with the statement, “There are a million stories in the naked city.  This is just one of them”.  If you look around closely, you’ll find a lot more than just one no matter where you live.