On Finding the Story (Hopefully)

Once again I’m staring at the screen wondering what I should write about for today’s post.

It happens every time I go to write a piece of non-fiction. Sure, I’m killer when it comes to keeping a diary (I need a new one every few months or so), but when I’m expected to share something online, I freeze up. Suddenly, everything I have to say seems unimportant or uninteresting. I’m one voice screaming in a crowd of millions; my words get buried by #hiddleswift and “Can we guess your non-negotiable apartment amenity?

How can I—and why should I—be heard?

I don’t have an answer to that. As far as humans go, I’m pretty standard. Not the heroine. Not the sidekick. Maybe the forgettable minor character who gives a few words of wisdom while brewing her tea.

That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. That minor character lives a relaxed, drama-free life. But it sure makes it hard to write about herself.

When I struggle to find a topic for my posts, I tell myself, “Look for the story.” Like a reporter, except I’m a fiction writer, so I look for plots with rising and falling action and complex characters with complete arcs. In real life, those things don’t always exist, and when they do, they’re often too problematic or personal to share online. As humorous and fascinating as they can be, work stories are a major no-no, and I hesitate to write about friends and acquaintances without their consent.

So, what does that leave when the story you look for proves elusive ? Well, I’m not sure, but if you struggle with non-fiction blog posts like me, here are some ways to find ideas that sometimes work and (disclaimer) sometimes don’t:

Prompts

I have never been a huge fan of writing prompts. In my experience, they tend to stifle creativity, but I have found them helpful when I am trying to write non-fiction. In an effort to revamp my journal entries, I purchased “642 Things to Write About Me,” which sounds incredibly egotistical, but offers keen inspiration for personal diaries. However, they don’t always work for blog posts.

Events

It can be a lot of fun to cover an event like a signing, festival, or conference, but when doing this, it’s important to know that you’re going to write about it ahead of time. It gives you a reporter’s mindset, forcing you to observe as well as participate. It’s also important to have an angle. It isn’t enough to say, “I went to [blank] and did [this], [this], and [this].” Writing about the experience from a story angle helps readers get into the spirit of an event they likely didn’t go to.

In the News

We at Pudding Shot haven’t taken on controversial subjects, but they are good fodder for personal blogs. Educate yourself. Form an opinion. Share your opinion, and share it with grace. Don’t expect everyone to agree with you. Be willing to open and participate in a dialogue.

There are plenty of other ways to find inspiration, but these are the ones I turn to the most. If you have favorite prompts to share with us, please send them to puddingshotwriters@gmail.com.

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