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Spark story ideas by asking these five questions

One of my writing friends and I were kicking around story ideas this week so we could send out pitches for freelance assignments. I analyzed how we formulated our ideas and thought I’d share these questions in case it helps spark ideas of your own.

These questions are also good for generating ideas for other writing projects, including memoirs, novels, and short stories.

What is misunderstood? Sometimes, something that you think is wrong, or misunderstood may lead you to write about it to right the wrong, shed light on a problem, or improve a process.

What am I passionate about? If you’re enthusiastic about a subject, you probably have knowledge and a way of presenting it that will resonate with readers. You’ll also have the energy to sustain the project if it’s a longer assignment.

What expertise can I leverage? Sometimes, having knowledge in a particular area reveals insight for a story angle, and you’ll likely already have good ideas for interview sources.

What do I want to understand better? While it’s been said, “write what you know,” it can be equally helpful to write about what you don’t know. Not only will you satisfy your writer’s curiosity, you’ll be approaching it from the perspective of your target reader, who might not know the issue well either. If you write about the topic so that you understand it, chances are good that it will be clear to readers.

What is timely? What big issues are affecting people right now? What topics are in the news? Come up with a new take on the topic or a quirky way of looking at it and you just may have a winning idea.

Exercise. Get out a sheet of paper or open a document on your computer and answer the questions above. Write without stopping for 15 minutes. Be as specific as you can. Once you’re finished, circle the ideas that strike you the most.

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