Friday, February 2, 2018

The Amazing Story Generator

A few years ago a reader sent me a copy of THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR.

This is a book--a tool?--that "Creates Thousands of Writing Prompts" for writers having trouble coming up with ideas. Now, in my experience, ideas are not a problem for writers (and by "writers" I don't mean those people who decide to create books as a get-rich-scheme--those folks actually do have trouble coming up with ideas, judging by the bizarre comments in some of the groups I belong to). FOLLOW THRU is the challenge for the rest of us.

Right? Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's the work--work--of writing the book we'd all love to find a short cut for. :-D But I digress.

Anyway, I was idly flipping through this book (Mix-and-Match-Creative-Writing-Prompts!) and I started to think about the very nature of storytelling. Why are some ideas so compelling--and some ideas so...not?

Why are some ideas so universal, so timeless that they become tropes? I mean, I understand why falling in love and trying to build lasting relationships is timeless and universal. Most of us at some point in our lives fall in love and attempt to build lasting relationships. But amnesia, marriages-of-convenience, solving a murder, anything to do with cowboys or firemen or policemen? Why are those so enduring?

The way the AMAZING STORY GENERATOR works is it takes three different elements which can be combined to create "unique" story ideas.

For example, if you just go with the first three panels you get:

Upon winning the lottery
A reformed hit man
Meets the ghost of Ernest Hemingway

I don't know about you, but for me this was a Wah Wah Wah Fail Sound Effect.

So close and far. I mean, yes, it worked for Woody Allen, but it's a hard sell for most romance readers.

A few more page flips and we've got...

Upon winning the lottery
A reformed hit man
Assumes a new identity

Okay, workable, right? Not my kind of story idea, but I can see others turning this into a workable, even winning idea.

Some of these are just weird.

Upon winning the lottery
A sassy nun
steals a baby

WTH. I do not like nuns stealing babies or playing the lottery. Just saying.

Honestly, I find the whole "winning the lottery" trope SO boring. So flip a few pages...

Ugh... post-apocalyptic worlds (kill me first) suffering from amnesia (okay, I do like amnesia) while dog sitting (where's my sad trombone?) hoping to impress an old flame (oh! okay...)

Hoping to impress an old flame

A sassy nun (NO!!!!) a gold prospector (Thar's gold in them hills...REALLY?) a clown in training (hahahahaha NO) a computer hacker (sigh...okay)

Hoping to impress an old flame
A computer hacker
steals a baby

WHAT??? No. NO.

Discovers who really killed JFK (Spoiler alert, it was the CIA, MOVE ON) Makes a deal with the Devil (BO-RING) Receives a very important phone call (Huh? That's not a hook, that's an inciting incident) Discovers plans for an impending alien invasion (so...more baby stuff...) Develops the ability to fly (WTH -- how would this aid in your romance?) Accidentally runs over the family dog (sad trombone...wait...if it's a certain kind of black comedy...maybe...not in this story though) GROWS AN EXTRA ARM (...the better to grope you, darling...) Refuses to leave the bathtub (I. Give. Up.)

Clearly the third part of the equation is the tricky part.

I flipped through the entire book and all the options were equally bizarre: Stumbles upon the fountain of youth, is elected Mayor of Chicago, Inadvertently starts World War III, Burns down house (hmm...again, black comedy MAYBE) creates a family of robots...finds a 17th Century Treasure map (I love that idea, but does it work with the first part of the premise? IMHO no)

I think it would be REALLY fun to put one of these together for romance writers. Just imagine.

First piece of the premise: An embittered cop...A disgraced journalist...A retired fireman...A suicidal grad student...A widowed rancher... 

Second part of the premise: And his estranged former partner...Discovers a plot to...Is trapped in an isolated cabin with...Learns a trusted friend is...


Third piece of the premise...

No, wait. I'll leave that to you. :-D

You choose the first two pieces and come up with the third part of the equation.

Generate your Amazing ROMANCE Story idea in the comment section below.

I mean, could you possibly do worse than:

After too many cups of coffee
A Shakespearean scholar
Slowly transforms into a centaur



  1. After reading about the new tax law
    A harrassed CPA
    Discovers new deductions

    I think I'll keep my day job and leave the writing ideas to you.

  2. I think a real writer is going to take the prompts and add a ton of stuff to them. I want to know WHY the nun steals the baby. I think she's trying to protect him from certain death because he's the crown prince in hiding, but the evil vizier has found him, so she steals him without telling anyone, including his parents and caregivers. She plans to hide him until he can take over the throne. I think this sounds better. It might not be great, yet, but it's definitely better.

    An embittered cop and his estranged former partner... stumble into a drug cartel.

    lol, can you tell I've been watching a lot of Disney movies and Walker, Texas Ranger lately? :-P

  3. I'm not sure what your problem is. This is how I come up with all of my Adventures.
    What? A dingo stole your baby!

  4. " 'Where do you get your ideas from, Ms Le Guin?' From forgetting Dostoyevsky and reading road signs backwards, naturally. Where else?"

  5. OMG! That's hilarious! (The nun part sounds a lot like The Omen by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.)

    -An embittered cop (why is he embittered?)

    -is trapped in an isolated cabin with (he is an outdoor type of guy / he hates THE NATURE)

    - with his former captain, who overlooked him for every promotion and the mob is on their way.

    - with the psychologist, who declared him unfit for service.

    That is not new and it's not very thrilling. 😊

  6. This post is the funniest thing I've read in a long time. Thanks for the laughs, Josh. :D

    Juggling things around a bit (AKA 'cheating'): "An embittered cop is trapped in an isolated cabin with his estranged former partner." I would read that!

  7. A recovering Trump follower...
    Mistakenly deported by the ICE to Mexico...
    Meets cute Mexican police officer trying to get back...

    Too political?

  8. What a great post. And I agree the nun one (minus the lottery) sounds like Good Omens. I love bizarre prompts. Ali and I would get between 10-20 prompts and make a story out of it. Silly and fun :)
    -Andy Slayde

  9. Yes Andy, but don't forget the apocaplyptic background. Perhaps Neil Gaiman owned a certain book?!

  10. I almost missed this blog! I glad I didn't. How's this...

    Retired detective and his bookselling partner
    Mend fences with Irish family
    While solving murder at St Patrick's Day blow out

    See where I'm going with this?? ;) What? It might work! :D

    (Wonder if I could use the story generator to help with new painting idea? Maybe.)

  11. That last one, "Slowly transforms into a centaur" ... I do think if all else fails you could still make it work, at least for the Furry community... ;-)