BELA LAMPERT

Yoga Instructor
Optioned Screenwriter

How To Find Topics To Write About


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So, you want to be a fiction writer of some sort.

Maybe you want to write novels, or screenplays, short stories… whatever.

But what topics are you going to write about?

The million dollar question.

Choosing good topics to write about is one of the most important decisions you will make in your writing life on an ongoing basis.

No matter what topic you choose, you will automatically choose not to write about all the others (at least for now). 

Also, it should be something that really interests you, otherwise you’re not going to stick with it until the end.

Because no one wants to read or produce an unfinished story.

Then there’s market considerations. What will sell?

If you’re just starting out, I wouldn’t worry about that at all. 

First, it’s only about getting a story down, learning how to do it, and getting better at it.

Still, the question remains?

What topic am I going to write about?

If you take a look at the great stories out there (and by great I mean the ones that you like), they’re really all about people who are in some way interesting enough so we want to follow them along and see what they’re doing.

And, apart from that, those people, at some point fairly early on in the story, will be in some kind of predicament that they have to get out of. 

And we’re suffering with them.

So, in a way, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that all stories are about the human condition in some shape or form.

Now, this is very general, “the human condition”.

So, in order to find interesting topics to write about let’s break it down a bit.

Try to think about why the stories you like attract you.

What is it about the characters that has you and keeps you interested?

Now, in order to write an interesting stories that has that effect on other people, something they can relate to, you need to find out where that human connection is in the story you want to tell.

Writing is a very personal endeavour, so, one of the best possibilities to find personal stories to tell is to take a look at yourself.

Try to find out what it is in your own life, and in extension, in your own imagination, that connects to other people and how you can let new story ideas grow out of that.

In order to help you with this, here is a bunch of questions that you may ask yourself in order to get you going.

Just pick a notepad and write down whatever comes to mind, trying to find an answer to those questions. 

And don’t just be satisfies with the first, easy, sometimes superficial answer. Try to get down to the root of what kind of emotions or memories or associations each of those questions triggers inside of you.

Be honest to yourself. It can be brutal thinking about those things but that can be something that your readers or viewers will connect to. And why they will stick around.

So, let’s go through the questions:

  • What keeps you awake at night?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • What causes you pain?
  • In what kinds of situations do you feel humiliated?
  • What makes you angry?
  • Who are you furious with?
  • What do you worry about the most?
  • What are your values?
  • What is your most urgent crisis right now?
  • Who are your enemies?
  • What 3 things frustrate you most each day?
  • What do you want more than anything?
  • What do you feel guilty about?
  • What do you secretly fantasize about having in life?
  • From whom do you crave recognition and why?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • Do you want revenge on anyone? Why? On who?
  • What kinds of worlds interest you, or would you like to get to know?
  • What abilities would you like to have?
  • Who would you like to impress and why? With what?
  • What crisis have you overcome? How did that change you?

Answer those questions honestly and you’ll never run out of good story ideas to write about.

You can answer these questions from your own point of view, or you can just take them as a starting point for creating character and story ideas.

Then, expand from there until you think you have enough ideas.

Take those rough ideas, and then look for similarities.

What topics turn up again and again?

With which of those idea elements would you like to spend more time with?

Which of those ideas fascinate you enough to keep exploring them further?

Then try to weed out the details and find the core of the story, the heart. The one sentence that would make someone else want the read or see the story if you told it in one or two sentences.

Then, expand from that core concept and don’t stop working on it until you have a finished draft.

If you want to learn how to stay inspired to write through the whole thing:

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