Monday Writing Motivation: Stories by the bucketload

 In Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog, Tips for Writers

I have often said that story ideas for writers are there for the plucking, like so many ripe fruit.

This signal truth was brought home to me with force on our recent holiday in South Africa. We had come “home” (I’m sometimes confused by what “home” signifies exactly) for a six week break from the English winter, to see family, old friends in various parts of the country and generally, to relax.

Well, sort of. All About Writing is a mighty engine that demands frequent servicing, regular refuelling and the odd visit to the panel beaters. But we managed to squeeze a fair amount of leisure, not to mention a road trip or two, into our work schedule.

And it was the road trips that I think did it – or, at least, the roads.

In Johannesburg, our friends glumly recounted stories of the potholes that have grown over time into sinkholes. Entrepreneurs with an eye on the main chance have erected barriers around some of the larger craters and now charge motorists for having saved their bacon…

What if, I mused, a sinkhole grew ever bigger, like some black hole in the galactic centre swallowing up great swathes of neighbouring stars…

On a road trip to the Western Cape our modest rental was passed by a seemingly endless procession of white twin-cabs, each with at least two, and often three or more, bicycles strapped to the back. Families headed for the coast, Trish said, but I wondered why so many of them were travelling in twin-cabs, white twin-cabs. What if, by some strange twist of the space-time continuum, they were all the same twin-cab…?

In Fish Hoek, we holed up in an Airbnb while a wild south-easterly gale laid siege to us. For three days the wind whistled and groaned about our eaves, seemed to suck oxygen from the air, and raged through day and through night.  Helicopters scooped water from the bay and deposited it on fires devastating the fynbos.

What if a wind like that could tip people over the precipice into insanity…?

We took a trip into the hinterland to a game reserve where a pride of lions lazily regarded us, licking their lips. A host of ideas sprang into my head. What if… what if… what if…

These were just some of the story ideas that had me in their thrall. Unable to resist their clarion call, I scribbled story after story – the first short stories I’ve written in decades. I’ve returned to the ice and snow of winter in England with a sheaf of them, enough to fill half a volume.

No one is more astonished than I am.

What the experience tells me is that stories are indeed everywhere, if only we attend – and ask that single, essential question:

What if…?

Happy writing,


PS – Want some advice on developing your story idea, developing characters, growing good writing habits, planning a new writing project or rejuvenating an existing project? Join Jo-Anne and me at our free ‘plan your creative writing year’ webinar tomorrow Tuesday 23 January where we’ll answer your questions. We’d love you to join us.

Sign up now!


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