Happy Halloween! Now, I’ve heard this a lot, especially at my writing groups: “I’ve always wanted to write, but not sure what to write about.” With so many things to write about, how do you choose that perfect story? Most people in this situation write autobiographies because they know themselves best. But what if you don’t want to write that? What if you want to write fiction? Being a writer myself, I only have one answer: “Write what is real to you.” This is your story, which means it belongs to no one else. You are the sole author and have absolute control over what goes into your story, so make it something that you can see inside and out.
Another thing to remember is to be a leader, not a follower. Don’t write your stories in genres simply because they are best-sellers, especially if you are not passionate about that genre. It makes no sense to write a fantasy novel when your passion mystery. I remember my first writing group and the leader told me that my story won’t sell and that I need to write things similar to the Hunger Games. My genre is Young Adult, and he was into literature – I guess he just didn’t like the YA market in general. Point is, listen to your heart and not someone else, even if they know a lot about the writing market. If you’re wondering, I left the group awhile back and it was the best thing I did for my writing career. It’s your story, and you’ve got to share it with the world. Here are a few suggestions to help decide what you want to write about:
1. Put your passion into your story. I know a writer who loves horses and has her story set where the characters have to car for injured horses. Animals, cars, sports, anything you know and love can be used as a theme or even a tool that revolves around your characters.
2. A favorite place. Do you have a particular place you love and know inside and out? Use that as a setting for one or multiple stories. Your story will be enriched and it is a perfect chance to educate your readers about your special place. My novel takes place in Florida, where I have gone on vacation since I was three. Another idea is to use a certain time period (Ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, etc) that you are fascinated with.
3. Someone special. Similar to a favorite place, you could write about someone close to you or someone you admire. It could be an athlete or a famous politician. Or even someone you met briefly that just had that special impact on you, could make for an attention-grabbing character.
4. Something personal. Can you think of a personal moment in your life that changed it forever? Perhaps you’re living with some disability or other hardship. Although it might be painful to relive it, it would make for an interesting story. For certain, you would be appealing to the reader’s pathos or emotions.
5. Your professional side. Perhaps you’ve been a fireman, a police officer, or in the army. Why not write a story where the characters have the same careers as you do? Again this will enrich the story, and it gives you the opportunity to experience your career on the written page. Plus, you won’t have to do any research about the character’s job since you know it so well. This is assuming you actually like your job.
Whatever you choose to write about, make sure it is something meaningful and real to you. Even if someone else is writing about a similar piece, remember that only you can describe it. Remember a lyric from Natasha Bedingfield’s song, “Unwritten”: “No one can speak the words on your lips.” No one can write the words on your hands. Also be sure to do your research on a subject, if you need it. And finally remember once you have chosen a topic, read books that cover that topic.