In my very first post on this creative writing blog, I mentioned the importance of observation in creative writing. There’s even more to the connection between observation skills and creative writing. Good observation skills will do more than add dimension to your writing; they’ll also help you come up with creative story ideas.
Using observation to develop story ideas requires a whole new mindset. You have to stop thinking of your life as ho-hum routine and start thinking of new angles to every action and event.
For example, one morning I had to be at work early, but I also needed to drop a video at Blockbuster to avoid a late fee. At 5:30 in the morning, it was still dark, and I was the only person in the Blockbuster parking lot. I started letting my imagination run wild—what if a cop car pulled into the parking lot, lights flashing, and the cops arrested me for something I hadn’t done? What if somebody had planted evidence in my car, link me to a crime I knew nothing about? What if the cops were in on it, and it was a big conspiracy to frame me and cover up something bigger?
Okay, so that’s a little extreme. However, see how I took a simple, everyday action (dropping of a video) and took it to remarkable lengths. You can do that too. Of course, this was a fiction example, but you can use it for nonfiction, too. You just need to reign in your imagination (a little!).
A nonfiction example for the same scenario (again, dropping off a video in pre-dawn darkness): a story on different professionals (bakers, garbage collectors, restaurant servers, whatever) who have to be up and at work before dawn every day. Interview them. Describe the world as they see it in the morning…dark, silent, almost ghostly.
With a little bit of practice, you could be seeing stories wherever you turn—and you may even wish you could stop!