Never Run Short of Story Ideas

Today’s push-up involves building an idea factory. It’ll help you create spicier copy and build up a bank of story concepts for autoresponders, articles, and even headlines and leads.

It came to mind the other day when one of my new clients asked me to write 30 product descriptions. They had a basic version created by their technical people that were “pretty vanilla.” My client wanted to know if I could “spice them up.”

One of the secrets to creating copy that motivates your prospect to continue reading is to get away from generic descriptions. Because when you use a generic description, your reader quickly falls asleep.

By using specific, vivid words, you can stimulate your reader's senses. This helps them visualize pictures from their own personal “sense file.” Let’s look at the difference between these two descriptions:

“Learn how to run a successful business.” Or … “Reveals the ‘Donald Trump Secret Recipe’ for making more while working less.”

Can you see the difference?

The problem is sometimes it takes a while to come up with picture-perfect words, phrases, or ideas.

So today’s writing push-up will give you a ready source filled with words, phrases, and story ideas. You can refer to it whenever you need some inspiration or feel your copy could use some pizzazz.

Take the next five to 10 minutes to build your own idea factory tool, adapted from a songwriter tool I picked up from author and Berklee College of Music professor Pat Pattison.

Writing Push-up #4: Build Your Own Idea Factory

Step one: Set up your worksheet

Open a spreadsheet and label six separate pages and tabs with the following titles: article ideas, objection ideas, verbs, nouns, adjectives, and phrases.

Step two: Create categories

Decide on some “starter categories” for each tabbed page.

For your article ideas page, consider categories that reflect topics you regularly write about, such as those for your money-making website or attracting clients to your business.

If you have regular article clients, add their names or topics to your page also. For instance, I provide articles to a pay-per-click specialist every month, so this is one of my categories.

For objection ideas you can use in autoresponders, promotions, and other copy, per the suggestion of AWAIer Anthony Contreras, I’ve organized my categories according to common objections, like “too expensive,” “not enough time,” and “too difficult.”

The categories for phrases are similar to your objection idea page. However, you can expand this to include concepts or topics you write about regularly as well. Some of the categories on my page include making money, success, failure, selling, and writing.

Your nouns, verbs, and adjectives pages are a little more challenging to categorize, but you can group them by meaning.

For example, I have the word “money” on my noun page. That is the generic noun, and underneath it, I list a variety of nouns that mean “money.” “Greenbacks,” “bucks,” and “six figures” – all fall under my money column.

Don’t worry too much about categorizing your nouns, verbs, and adjectives pages though. These pages are mainly for recording interesting words when you come across them and are useful for building your own metaphors and similes. (To learn how to build metaphors that add selling power, check out my article: How to Add Selling Power to Your Direct Mail and Web Copy Using Metaphors.)

Step three: Build your idea factory

If you’ve ever read a promotion and thought to yourself, “That’s a great line,” then you’re set to go with this concept.

Carry a small notepad or use a recording app on your smartphone to record all the great phrases, words, or story ideas you come across in your everyday life. Then transfer them to your spreadsheet so you have a bank of story starters when you’re ready to write.

Grab ideas from conversations, things you read and write, or anything you hear that inspires you. Like me, you might also consider spending time actively searching for great words and phrases to fill in your idea factory.

For example, the other day, I read a Facebook post where a reader used the term “toxic liar” in her comment. That created such a visual for me, I recorded it in my idea factory. It also sparked “toxic ideas” and “toxic business practices” among other ideas.

Leave your idea factory open on your computer all the time. That way when you run across something, you can easily copy and paste it into your file or quickly record an idea.

The more you do this, the more you’ll notice word choice and the better your writing will become. Not only that, the next time you need to create a headline, article, or autoresponder, you’ll already have a list of ideas waiting to inspire you.

And, be sure to share your ideas by commenting below.

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Published: September 29, 2011

8 Responses to “Never Run Short of Story Ideas”

  1. Cindy:
    Another great idea this week! I thought about doing this but hadn't taken the time to think about how to organize it. Now it's done, organized and ready for all the great words, expression and ideas I run across. Not only will i remember good ideas I discover from other people, I have a place to keep the great the moments of brilliance that my writer discovers during my object writing exercises!


  2. You are inspiring me, Cindy, to get back to my poetry writing and I like the idea of being aware of words, expressions and ideas I may want to use and getting them on paper. Good ideas!!!

    Guest (Aunt Nancy)

  3. I'm enjoying doing these pushup sessions #2 & 4 but somehow I missed # 3. KEEP UP THE GOOD MOTIVATIONAL WORK. THIS WILL BE MY YEAR FOR AT LEAST PART TIME WORK!

    Guest (Doug Foster)

  4. Love this whole series. I was trying to figure out something like this but didn't get past a list of verbs.

    I'm using mind mapping software instead of the spreadsheet. Same thing, but some are more comfortable with one layout over another.


    Guest (Jan)

  5. I hav enjoyed your series this week. I have learned alot. Been faithfully doing the object wriitng.

    I have not put to use all these Push Ups yet, but working on them. I am currently building my action words & phrases list.

    Thank you so much for sharing your ideas with us.


  6. Hi All,

    I was sort of wondering what if I wish to write short stories or an Essay okay maybe Novel see in High School my 10th grade English teacher often teased me an ask me How was my Novel going? I tended to write non-stop on my paper's.

    Guest (Jacinta)

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