Saturday, October 6, 2012

26 Story Ideas - Part 1/3

Last Monday I shared an article about Theodore Sturgeon complaining to Robert Heinlein that he couldn’t come up with any good ideas and was suffering writer’s block. Heinlein responded by airmailing him a letter of encouragement, twenty-six story ideas, and a hundred bucks.

Someone commented on my Facebook that she would give up the hundred bucks in exchange for the ideas. She was in a similar drought. I offered to come up with twenty-six ideas for her, and midway through brainstorming them realized I might as well share them with everyone. Today, Sunday and Monday, I’ll be posting the complete list of twenty-six ideas.

These are not Creative Commons; you’re free to make money off of them if you can. If you’d credit me, I’d appreciate it, but that’s it. If you’re in any sort of creative drought, these are meant for you. Cheers.

1. Dragons can only sleep on precious materials. After falling on hard times, one dragon opens up a bank, using her ferocious reputation to guard your valuables - in her mattress.

2. One old-cat politician was crucial to driving through legislation that allowed citizens to be arrested and held without explicit cause or council, and to be interrogated and imprisoned indefinitely. After he loses his bid for re-election, he’s jailed under the same law he enacted.

3. On a slow news week, a gaggle of journalists create a bet on who can report the most believable (yet outrageous) made up story in his/her paper/website/blog. One journalist’s story discusses secret societies and attracts a conspiracy theorist who thinks she’s on to something, and begins stalking her to get the information she doesn’t really have. Her friends think this is just her trying to win the bet in a long-con.

4. Egypt, 2011. She is the most amazing girl he’s ever met. Devout to her own faith and outspokenly political, she disowned her own parents, has crossed borders to help doctors and risked being stoned. Today he was going to finally propose marriage to her. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for the civilized world, today was the beginning of the Arab Spring in Egypt. As a political revolution unfolds, event after event makes it harder and harder to talk to her alone, much less to make his proposal seem appropriate. How can he get her attention? And at the potential birth of a revolution, does one person’s love even matter?

5. A former boy-hero wizard washes out in his teens and spends his adulthood with those who can't do: teachers. He’s become faculty at the same school he was once a hero at, educating the next generation and taking out his alcoholic jadedness on them.

6. The assistant designer on a big war-shooter videogame is dissatisfied with his company’s project. It's unrealistic, turning combat into entertainment rather than the tense horror that all the veterans he interviewed described. Across a series of visits to a shooting range to test the "feel" of various firearms, our designer's grip on reality begins to slip, particularly as he sees opportunities to realize the horrors of war in the city around him. It'd almost be easier to make reality a game, he thinks...

7. A brother and sister inherit a peculiar telescope from their estranged uncle. They can see all the way to Pluto through it, which the sister didn't think was possible. Stranger still, when they stick their hands in front of it, they can touch what they see through the lens. At first it's fun and games, knocking Saturn out of orbit and using Cheetoh dust to create a meteor shower. But as the brother takes these games too far, his sister questions how much they can safely change in the cosmos. His newest idea chills her: to see what happens if they blot out the sun.

8. The first sentient computer program is given a job: psychoanalysis and drug dispersal. Using a lack of empathy that would make Dr. House blush, it's assigned to treat the anxieties of astronauts on the first manned mission to Mars. Deep space dementia is worse than anyone expected, though, and if the program can't pull the astronauts out if this, it will have to pilot the ship. That's a problem for the program, as the one task its always struggled with is how to talk to other computers.

9. Tomorrow, everyone who previously lived on earth wakes up living upside down in the clouds. All our structures are resting in the sky, and whenever cloud cover breaks, the people and buildings “fall” upward into space. How did we get up there? The answer lies several thousand feet “up” – on earth’s surface. But how do we get down there before a clear sky kills us all?

Jump to ideas 10-18.


  1. My favorite is #5, but there's a bunch of gems here!

  2. Wonderful!! I might have to use some of these myself. I especially like #4 for some reason. And should I tackle that one, I'd relish the research.

  3. These are great. Even if I don't use them, they are very, very inspiring. Thanks.

  4. As a reader rather than writer I would love to read many of these. Wonderful drought breakers.

  5. I like 8 in particular - I see great potential for humor there. Thanks for sharing these John.

  6. These are gems! I'm tempted to try make a list of 26 myself... or to turn a few of these into #fridayflashes.

    Hmm.. must focus on book release first. Will bookmark for later :-)


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