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Why does nothing inspire me?:

 1 Twentington, Mon, 7th Jan '13 10:29:44 AM from Somewhere Relationship Status: Desperate
Mustelidae = awesome
So I check out lots of creative works. Books, comic strips, cartoons, TV series, what have you. Looking for ideas. And some ideas on their own sound cool. And sometimes, their ideas even match up to what I'm trying to do. (For instance, Tomo and Osaka from Azumanga Daioh both display traits of a character I'm trying to write.)

Yet when I sit down to write... nothing.
Windmill, windmill for the land / Is everybody in?

 2 chihuahua 0, Mon, 7th Jan '13 10:32:40 AM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
Do you not know what you want to write about, or are you just stuck?

If the former, try some writing prompts. If the latter, try freewriting.
 3 Twentington, Mon, 7th Jan '13 10:38:35 AM from Somewhere Relationship Status: Desperate
Mustelidae = awesome
I've tried writing prompts. "What would they do in this situation?" "..." is the result I get every time. I have ideas as to what each character acts like, but I just get stuck royally whenever I try to put them in any situation, even so simple as going to the grocery store

Free-writing, I always end up with just lolrandom monkey cheese humor that reads like an 11 year old wrote it, or sex, or both.
Windmill, windmill for the land / Is everybody in?

 4 Mr AHR, Mon, 7th Jan '13 11:48:51 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
How long does this go on? Maybe you should force yourself to not write, and see how long it takes you to want to write.
 5 Twentington, Mon, 7th Jan '13 11:51:53 AM from Somewhere Relationship Status: Desperate
Mustelidae = awesome
[up]That's the thing though. I WANT to write, but nothing ever comes out except sex and/or monkey cheese.
Windmill, windmill for the land / Is everybody in?

 6 Matthias Pendragon, Mon, 7th Jan '13 12:16:13 PM from A spinning orb in space
Honor For All...
Is it the act of coming up with ideas or the act of writing that is tripping you up?

If its the idea bit, I like to take a walk or mow the yard or something, basically any simple physical activity and run over a concept while I do. Moving helps me think, so I expand the concept in my head. By the time I finish what I'm doing, I usually have an idea of what I want to do.

If its the act of writing itself that's the problem... Not sure what to tell you other than forcing yourself to do it. Using programs like write or die helps some people.

edited 7th Jan '13 12:16:33 PM by MatthiasPendragon

Some people think I'm strange. I think it's sad that they can't see all the awesome stuff going on in my head right now.

 7 Leradny, Mon, 7th Jan '13 12:36:00 PM from Alameda, CA
Sounds like you are not the sort of person who can immediately think of something to write about within a twenty minute session of freewriting. That's okay.

Think of something to write about before you sit down. To start things off easy, answer some open-ended questions about yourself so you don't have to juggle characterizing a fictional character. Questions like "What am I truly afraid of? How does my body react to fear?" Then you can shift it to fleshing out characters.

If you have the inclination, you might also take an acting class or a psychology class. They usually have you question why someone would do something as well as what happens, and it's a surprisingly good foundation for writing.

Terracotta Soldier Man
Here's a thought: Save all your lolrandom monkey cheese stuff, then edit it once you have something novel-length and interweave some sort of framing story to tie it all together. Then publish it as "an experiment in postmodern surrealism." With luck, you might become the next James Joyce.

Other than that, I can't think of anything that hasn't been suggested already.

 9 Twentington, Mon, 7th Jan '13 6:49:29 PM from Somewhere Relationship Status: Desperate
Mustelidae = awesome
[up][up][up]: Moreso the writing. I can sit down and say "Okay, June and Jillian are going to the mall / traveling to Mars / cooking dinner / trying out for a game show / 489 billion other ideas", but no matter what I pick, I'm always stuck. I have at least somewhat of an idea of how each character acts in general, but I can never seem to mold it to any situation.
Windmill, windmill for the land / Is everybody in?

 10 Twentington, Tue, 8th Jan '13 9:02:39 PM from Somewhere Relationship Status: Desperate
Mustelidae = awesome
So yeah. Why is it I have the ideas and the characters, but can never seem to fit one to the other?
Windmill, windmill for the land / Is everybody in?

 11 Voltech 44, Tue, 8th Jan '13 9:23:58 PM from Alongside a Virtual Weasel
All Guns Sparking
You say you have ideas and characters? I say start from there.

Keep grilling yourself with questions. Like Leradny said, finding answers to the questions you ask about your characters and your story is as good a place to start as any. The obvious questions like "What's their personality" and "What's their motivation" are useful, of course, but don't stop there. What can your characters do? What can't they do? Why can the do it? Questions like those can define your characters in relation to the world around them, and give them a bit of uniqueness as a result of their tool set. It's a concept, I think, that can apply to any character, whether he/she's a demigod or just an average Joe/Jody.

Better yet, have a character in mind, but don't focus solely on them. Focus on the world around them, and how they interact with it. What's special about it? What's normal about it? What secrets does it have? What dangers does it have? What are the people like? What's the environment like? Would you want to live there? Why or why not? Speaking from experience, making the characters is only half the battle (if that); if you've got them in mind, give them a playground that'll let them stretch their legs.

Or even better than that, take a character and give them a villain. A threat. An antagonist. Some form of conflict, be it another person, a force of nature, or just the clock ticking down. Who or what can (or wants to) ensure your characters have a bad time, and why? What can they do, and why? What makes them different (or the same) as the main characters? What's the end goal? How do you stop him/her/it? CAN you stop him/her/it?

Sometimes it's not a matter of looking at something and then suddenly getting inspired to write something. Sometimes it's your questioning that makes the difference. If you can come up with solid answers to some of your questions — and following that, even more questions — then maybe that'll give you just the kick in the pants you need to pound out a story.

...Barring that, just write something random. Works for me.

Hope that little rant managed to help you out a bit.
Super Blog Link (Arcade Edition ver. 2013)
 12 Twentington, Thu, 10th Jan '13 6:36:44 PM from Somewhere Relationship Status: Desperate
Mustelidae = awesome
[up]I've tried the question thing. Even just "What food do they like?" "Hell if I know." "Where are they from?" "Someplace." "How do they get along with their parents?" "Uh…" And if I put anything down, I'm always like, "no, that's not interesting", "I can't work with that since I don't know a thing about it", or some other excuse.

It's the same in both universes that I'm working on. One has a set of triplets and older sister raised by a foster family, and it would basically be a coming of age story for the four, with them discovering their real parents. The other's a webcomic I'm trying to build with two female roommates. And whenever I think of something for either setting — "okay, the roommates work retail" — I feel like I'm just rehashing what everyone else has done a billion times.

I asked a friend "but aren't there like 40 billion other works that have a workplace setting?" and he said, "So? If you follow a similar path to them, that just means whoever likes those other works will like yours too." Even the coming-of-age story, though I have plenty of factors (most NSFW) that would set it apart, I still feel like every idea I do have is the most clichéd thing on the planet.

Also, neither setting really seems conducive to a villain or real antagonist. When I think of the characters, I can only ever seem to think of the vaguest things. One character in the triplets story is kinda shy but a horndog, one's athletic and playful, one's a muscled tomboy, one's an overweight, motherly chef. In the webcomic setting, one's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who drinks and smokes, the other's basically a reskinned Pinkie Pie. (And I'm even concerned with that… that I'm copying others' characters too.)

Neither setting really seems conducive to a villain or real antagonist, so that's out.

I can come up with the questions just fine. It's the answers that always leave me blank.

edited 10th Jan '13 6:36:54 PM by Twentington

Windmill, windmill for the land / Is everybody in?

 13 Jabrosky, Thu, 10th Jan '13 6:50:08 PM from San Diego, CA
Madman
I am in a similar boat as the OP, at least when it comes to plots. Character and setting ideas are relatively easy, but not so much finding a plot to which I can commit without wavering. I do think Voltech offered some good advice though.
 14 chihuahua 0, Thu, 10th Jan '13 7:05:07 PM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
It seems like you're mostly trying to find a plot for already developed characters and settings.

Just as an experiment, try the reverse: think of a basic plot first (not just an idea; a narrative with a general progression of events), then create the characters and setting.

edited 10th Jan '13 7:07:00 PM by chihuahua0

 15 Twentington, Thu, 10th Jan '13 7:15:05 PM from Somewhere Relationship Status: Desperate
Mustelidae = awesome
[up]I've tried that too and I never get anywhere. "Okay, the webcomic characters are looking for a job. What next?" "…" "What next?" "…" Or "The triplets first find out about their birth mother. What next?" "…" "What next?" "…"

I have a start, but never know where to take it.
Windmill, windmill for the land / Is everybody in?

 16 Wolf 1066, Thu, 10th Jan '13 7:59:00 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
I often come up with ideas for characters that would interact in an interesting fashion with one another (e.g. foils) but have absolutely no idea of what sort of plot to put them in. Often, what they're like is tied in with where/when they live (20th Century Urban for example), which rather limits what could plausibly happen to them unless I want to get into some serious weirdness happening).

I just leave them in the hopes that one day a story line will come up that will suit them.

I have no problem writing interactions between the characters, though and coming up with scenarios for them to play off one another. I know their goals and wants - most of them pretty mundane and not plot-worthy.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 17 chihuahua 0, Thu, 10th Jan '13 8:25:57 PM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
[up][up] Is that the only way you're constructing plots? The "what next" approach can be too linear in thinking, instead of considering the big picture.

Have you tried approaching it from a more macro level, in terms of premise?

A random one: "a recent widow and her children journey through a ravaged America to a safe haven, while avoiding mutated monsters and malicious travelers."

Another one more suited for a short story (or not): "a paranoid basement dweller develops the power to combust anything—or anyone—and struggles to control it."

One more: "a compulsive security and a reserved mechanic explore a corrupted car company to uncover a plan that could leave millions homeless."

Rough premises, but do you get what I'm saying? You have a protagonist, a problem, and a goal.


For reference, I have constructed a story idea from setting (both NaNoWriMo projects; a post-steampun Great Depression and a post-apocalyptic desert city with mechas, respectively), characters (Manifestation Files; a mild-mannered teenage boy with a bandage on his head), and plot/narrative (Kira Is Justice; what if someone discovered a dropped Death Note again?). Although a lot of the time, another element sneaks into the idea early and I don't remember the exact inspiration.

edited 10th Jan '13 8:32:36 PM by chihuahua0

 18 Twentington, Thu, 10th Jan '13 8:51:20 PM from Somewhere Relationship Status: Desperate
Mustelidae = awesome
[up]"The triplets are blah blah blah and have a foster mother because blah blah blah, and they discover their birth mother blah blah blah."?
Windmill, windmill for the land / Is everybody in?

 19 Jabrosky, Thu, 10th Jan '13 8:56:30 PM from San Diego, CA
Madman
One strategy that has worked for me when writing short stories at least is to start writing with only one scene in mind, but have the scene ended with something left unresolved. The scene may set up the story's main problem*, major theme, or the protagonist's character arc. Whichever you choose, the scene should set up something that allows the rest of the story to grow from that point onward. Most of the time I don't even need to write any outline down when I use this strategy, for I do all the planning in my head as I write the story.

  • "Conflict" is the more commonly used word for what I mean by this, but frankly I feel "problem" works better because not all stories center around fights or arguments between heroes and villains.
 20 Leradny, Thu, 10th Jan '13 8:58:15 PM from Alameda, CA
You're the writer. It's your job to decide what happens. Think something up instead of saying "I don't know".

 21 Twentington, Fri, 11th Jan '13 12:41:24 AM from Somewhere Relationship Status: Desperate
Mustelidae = awesome
[up]That's because I don't know. What I have in #18 is all I know of the triplet story. Four characters raised by someone else, they find their birth mother, one of the four is now married to another character.
Windmill, windmill for the land / Is everybody in?

 22 Wolf 1066, Fri, 11th Jan '13 12:55:26 AM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
So why don't you take it back a step and tell the tale of how they find their birth mother and the one who is married progresses from single to Wedded Blitz?

There's bound to be a story in that.

Raised by someone else, what do they want? To find their birth mum. What's in the way? They don't have much to go on and years have passed. How do they get over the hurdles? What other hurdles get in their way?

Expressing it in terms from one of the other threads:

They were raised by someone but they want to find their real mother therefore they resolve to do so but they don't know who she is and they have very few leads so they try the leads they have but they lead nowhere therefore they must dig deeper but a lot of time has passed and the records are sketchy. They find more leads and get a name and a place but she's moved on, therefore they have to try to trace her movements but... and so on until they finally get their goal and find her.

What's the reunion like? How does their mum receive them?

You're sitting there with complete characters and no plot. Make them less complete and you've got your plot.

edited 11th Jan '13 1:02:29 AM by Wolf1066

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 23 peccantis, Fri, 11th Jan '13 5:05:12 AM Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
the flies will find you
Sounds like you don't know what you like and what you don't well enough. Go read things. Short stories, flash fiction, long series, fanwankage lemon, whatever. See films.

Try this trick: write a list of things that will NOT happen in your story. It can help.

And if that don't work, you only have an element, not an idea. So add elements. Make the triplets ninjas. Make one of them mentally unstable. Make them have a deadly secret. Make them magical. Make them love the same girl. Make them have a donkey they can't get rid of. Shamelessly rip off tiny parts of stories you have liked or hated. Give them a Blessed with Suck magic ring, a cat that can sense when things are "wrong" but cannot communicate more than a normal cat, force them to leave their homeland for the bigger good, put a sniper after them, make them poor in a city of rich Beautiful People, question their identity on a cultural scale, make them face the realities of guerilla slave freeing.

Don't be afraid of things being contrived, cliched, or boring: pay thought to ALL kinds of combinations of elements, and if something feels "wrong" then write it on your list of "not going to happen", with some basic reasons for your judgement. "Orphaned ninja triplets know a deadly secret". Then analyse those reasons. Then try to come up with something you still like about the concept. It can be anything, from a whole concept to a sliver of a feeling. "Orphaned ninja triplets know a deadly secret" could be good for "orphanhood: no ties to family, maybe society cast-offs?" or "secrecy + deadly job sounds like plot fodder"...

The more "stupid" ideas you analyse like this the more workable idea matter you will have.

Have one hat (A) full of paper slips doing with actions, jobs, positions and characteristics: such as "crime-solving", "house-keeping", "unemployed", "overworked", "secret agent", "teenager", "mutant", "ninja", "turle", "clan traitor", "Nazi equivalent", "insurgent", "magical girl" etc...

Have one hat (B) for surroundings, culture, milieus, genres: "in space", "in mythical China", "in barren wastelands", "in a steampunk world", "among the mob/mafia/yakuza", "among the parias", "in a forgotten temple", "from Utopia City", "from the countryside", "from a secret colony on the Moon" etc...

And one hat (C) for random story elements, plot twists and such: "but zombies", "with annoying talking item", "but the reward was a lie", "but their father is a criminal", "while falsely accused", "but are made an offer they can't refuse", "but the universally adored religion was a commercial-political ploy", "but the magic item affects personality to advance its own agenda", "but the dreamboat man is their brother", "but it was just a dream and the actual situation is much more...", "while fleeing a horde of bounty hunters after their heads", "while smuggling an important item", "while looking for the wish granting magical balls scattered all over the world" and so on...

Draw two of each, and make a sentence: AA triplets BB try to find their mother, CC.

Figure out what you don't like and what you like. Write things down. Repeat.

Oh, and one thing to work on before you begin: figure out why your triplets need to be triplets, not just ordinary siblings born in a small frame of time. Also come up with their motivation to find their mother. Come up with crazy reasons, petty reasons, choose some nice ones that give you ideas, and please don't make it "because she's their mother duh).
before the darkness arrives
 24 cityofmist, Fri, 11th Jan '13 2:49:18 PM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
I don't want to be mean but...maybe you just aren't a writer? Maybe you just don't have any ideas? You said that 'some ideas on their own sound cool', but you can't write them yourself...have you considered that that's because they're other people's ideas, not yours? Most people aren't naturally talented writers, most people don't actually have heads full of brilliant literary ideas, and unless you do maybe you should just accept that you're one of that majority of people.
Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
 25 Leradny, Fri, 11th Jan '13 5:05:58 PM from Alameda, CA
That's because I don't know. What I have in #18 is all I know of the triplet story. Four characters raised by someone else, they find their birth mother, one of the four is now married to another character.

You make your own world and characters. There is no right or wrong answer to worldbuilding and characterization. If you honestly want to improve, jot down the most random things you can think of as long as it isn't "I don't know". If it doesn't fit, think of something that's a little closer than your first one.

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