Ideas for short anecdotes
April 15, 2014 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Lately I've been looking into pursuing my love for comics by writing one-page stories. Catch is, I'm experimenting with layering the stories and de-linearizing them, but I need simple story ideas for the most basic layer of the piece. My best bet would be working with something similar to a parable or anecdote which I can later complicate, but where can I find helpful ideas / inspiration?

During my brainstorming process, my most basic idea was the story of a person walking through the streets of a metropolitan city (Toronto). This would serve as the basic skeleton which would allow me to put other layers of story happening concurrently with the walking. I'm rambling here, but I'm thinking that since it is a one-page comic story, it would be more interesting to transform the walking story into something parable-like / anecdote-like. I am not looking for anything too preachy or wise, rather something entertaining and (preferably) funny, or perhaps something that can explore surreal dream states that start with a regular guy walking down the street and end with something unexpected. I think that Toronto has a lot of potential story-wise. I was looking at something similar to Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies for inspiration, as well as the work of French artist Moebius, but I would appreciate additional resources / inspiration.
posted by omar.a to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A couple of ideas spring to mind:

Advice columns -- take the problems written out by people who are asking for relationship advice (or other advice) and make stories out of those.

"Humans of New York" -- Take some of the stories told by the subjects of this photographer (available on Facebook) and fictionalize them.
posted by xingcat at 1:10 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wrote a piece that started off as mundane errands. Going to the post office, stopping by the drug store, picking up dry cleaning, getting the car washed, etc.

These are things we all do, and yet, anything can happen!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:14 PM on April 15, 2014

I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for, but a lot of stories from The Moth start out with relatively mundane situations.
posted by brentajones at 1:26 PM on April 15, 2014

For my comics, I look a lot to my life for material. Stuff happens every day that is potential fodder for good stories, the trick is anonymizing it somehow. So I spent time coming up with good ways to represent it metaphorically. Then I kicked it around until the metaphorical world hung together sufficiently well and was not too blatantly autobiographical.
posted by Michele in California at 1:41 PM on April 15, 2014

Hmm. One-pagers are not my forte; I can't even keep an 8-pager from ballooning into a 12. That said.

If you're planning to do a series of one-pagers that all start with "dude walking around Toronto", I would strongly suggest looking at Kirchner's "The Bus", a series of surreal reconfigurations of the simple theme of "a guy waits at a bus stop".

I also want to suggest a bit of agoramancy. Go out to a place where you will overhear lots of conversations, with earbuds on. Ask the city, or the other magical entity of your choice, for a good story seed, then pluck your earbuds out and listen. (Warning: may have surprisingly powerful results.)

Perhaps you want to do some formal trick. I'm neck-deep in a graphic novel that started life as the desire to tell multiple stories in long parallel rows of panels, for instance.

Play with myth - draw an interesting looking person, put them in the role of, say, Orpheus descending into the underworld to retrieve Eurydice. How do they navigate your particular (metaphorical) underworld? Who are they rescuing? This is my take, what's yours? Or some other myth that resonates with you.

Cut up old books or magazines. Draw three fragments out of a hat - do the results evoke something in you? Draw that story.
posted by egypturnash at 3:40 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Consider looking into the methods of Oubapo (and its prose-oriented predecessor Oulipo. Strong constraints can result in interesting stories. Similarly, if you want to make things that are explicitly surreal, try some of the methods of the Surrealists.
posted by egypturnash at 3:55 PM on April 15, 2014

Response by poster: @egypturnash: Glad you mentioned The Bus, I'm very familiar with that.
posted by omar.a at 4:02 PM on April 15, 2014

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