Hey kitties! I wrote the following article for NA Alley and you can read it and other awesome posts about New Adult books and media over on NA Alley!

8 Unusual Tools to Spark Your Story Creation

As writers of speculative fiction we are tasked daily with the construction of the impossible and the imaginary, and though some may consider writer’s block a myth, we all have to admit that at times our creative well runs a bit dry. But not to worry, ‘cause Kat’s got you covered with these 8 unusual tools and resources to initiate your story thinking caps!


Six-sided Story Elements

The creators of Story Cubes probably didn’t intend professional authors to toss around these dice to combat story blockage, but when I saw them at the local Target I couldn’t pass them by. Each of the six-sided dice have clear and well-illustrated graphics to help you form a story, and with three different sets (Original, Voyages, and Actions) the range of story sparking ideas are endless. And for you tech inclined kitties, yes, they have an app for that.

Road Map to the Unexpected

When trying to find that local brewery your friend told you about, Google Maps is usually your go-to program, but few authors think about using it for story inspiration. However, for Urban Fantasy and SciFi authors it can be an invaluable tool. You can use it to scout out real-world locations and buildings you can repurpose for your own story needs, or familiarize yourself with a location you might not have ever visited in person. And who knows, you might find some surprising hidden gems caught on camera by the Google car like I did when researching for my Marked Ones Trilogy on the streets of San Francisco.

Lost and Found in Translation

It’s no big secret that famed author J. K. Rowling named a lot of the spells and other cool fantasy elements in her Harry Potter series after Latin words. So why not snag this story creation tip for yourself?

When working on a story I decide a real world country or region for the story’s setting and then type words into Google Translate in the languages of those regions. For example, in my Marked Ones Trilogy the Daemotic language was a combination of Japanese, Greek, Hindi. Whereas for my upcoming Bride of the Harvest Wolf series I’ve used the regions of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Once I have my short list of results I then modify them the suit my story. And just like that, bam, I’ve got cool story elements like kekkoshi sadara, a ceremonial pear cider drunk by the bride and groom at a wedding feast, or a chancellarius, the non gender specific ruler of a region of the Kalodaemon empire. Just think of the cool layers of story creation you can add with just a few made up words and concepts.

E.T. iPhone Home

From Ancient Greek era computers to Black Plague aerial battles, the documentary show Ancient Aliens has covered pretty much the whole span of past human-extraterrestrial contact theories in its seven seasons. And whether or not you believe the hypotheses presented in the episodes, you have to admit they’re a wealth of cool ideas to add to your SciFi stories. So if you’re feeling blocked while planning out your next SciFi epic you should consider kicking back and show-bingeing on some good ol’ episodes of Ancient Aliens Netflix.

Let’s Talk About TED

The website home of TED Talks boasts “1900+ talks to stir your curiosity,” and they're far from joking. From Amanda Palmer’s examination of the relationship between fans and creators, to Elizabeth Gilbert’s radical ideas on creative genius, there’s plenty on TED Talks to lift your creative spirits and inspire you to create. But that’s not all TED as to offer, there are hundreds of fascinating science and technology talks on topics from femto-photography to zombie roaches. And with over a thousand hours of content, TED Talks offers plenty to get those creative gears firing at full speed.

Mining the Classics

We all probably know the stories of Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel by heart, but did you know that the Brother’s Grimm collected over 200 fairy tales and legends? So instead of heading straight to worn tales like Cinderella or Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty), maybe consider selecting a more unusual fairy tale as your inspiration like The Strange Feast, The White Snake, or The Four Skillful Brothers, or crafting a fairy tale mash-up like Into the Woods, or Once Upon a Time.

Voyage through the Ages

Most of us are more or less familiar with the Greek myths of Perseus and Medusa, Persephone, and King Midas, but what about the myths of other cultures like the Ancient Mayan, Japanese, or Celts? Many of the world’s mythology has yet to be reimagined in a new age or setting and is more than deserving of its moment to shine again. And let’s not forget the awesome creatures lurking in the stories of old like the Greek empusa (vampire), or the Japanese kamaitachi (scythe weasel).

Random Generated Awesome

Though primarily used by table-top roleplayers, sites like Red Dragon Inn, Pantomime Pony, and Seventh Sanctum (run by my pal Steve Savage!) can help you bust through that dreaded writer’s block with a plethora of randomly generated content at the click of a button. From the name and demographic stats of a town your characters mention in passing, to the name of that spaceport cantina bartender, these site can be the Mjölnir you take to that creative wall.

Well, that’s it for now, kitties, and I hope you try out a few of these unusual story sparking tips the next time you find yourself heading toward a wall of writer’s block.

About the Author

Alicia Kat Vancil is the author of the New Adult trilogy The Marked Ones, and a super geek extraordinaire. When not crafting new adventures to inflict on her characters she can usually be found running amuck in the imaginary worlds within her head, or frolicking in her general geekiness.

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