This is the eighth year in a row I've run this series in April. Why a story idea each day for the month? Several reasons which I'll work my through during this series of posts. Here's another one:
Thinking up new story ideas keeps you on your creative toes.
If a part of your consciousness is attuned at all times to an instinct to look, hear and listen to everything as a possible story idea, you keep your general level of creativity engaged.
It's the difference between being in your car and letting whatever is on the radio drift in and out of your brain barely processing it versus actively connected to the images and feelings the stimulus evokes.
This is not to say you shouldn't have some QVT: Quality Veg Time. Sometimes you just need to shut it down. But if you elevate your awareness about generating story ideas, one thing you will discover is how much time you spend doing — essentially — nothing.
Even if you spend just a bit of that time actively engaged in the story-generation process, you enliven your creativity.
Today's story idea: I Tried Dating in 6 Different U.S Cities. Here's What I Found Out.
One woman's quest for a good date.
Dread. That's the feeling that rises up in my throat whenever anyone asks me the totally non-condescending question of why I'm still single, which I've answered so many times in so many tones ("Just haven't met the right guy, I guess!" "I don't know. Why are you still married?"), I could teach a master class. Now imagine that feeling multiplied times a tsunami and you'll know what washed over me when Cosmopolitan.com called up to see if I would travel around the country going on dates to find out if location really matters when you're looking for love.
I've met guys in bars, at parties, while snowboarding, through friends, and online via OkCupid, Match, Tinder, Hinge, Happn, Bumble, The League, HowAboutWe, Coffee Meets Bagel, and even Nerve.com, a site for "literary smut" that hosted online personals in that early-aughts dark age before smartphones. There was the guy who kept taking calls from a number he'd labeled "Happy Happy Fun Time," which turned out to be his drug dealer. And the bassist who insisted I listen to 10 minutes of his music while he watched me react to it. And the winner who showed up in sweatpants and couldn't buy me a drink because he'd spent his last $ 20 on a beer and wings special for himself.
This is the introduction to a Cosmopolitan feature by its author Jada Yuan. For her assignment, she traveled to six widely diverse areas: New Bern, North Carolina; Miami, Florida; Austin, Texas; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Detroit, Michigan; and Los Angeles, California. Given those choices, I zeroed in on L.A. because having lived there for as long as I did, I was curious what the current dating scene. As one might expect of La La Land, it's… well… weird. Here is an excerpt from Jada's exploits there:
In Brooklyn, if I set my Tinder range to 15 miles, I'll get guys all over the city and into New Jersey and Long Island. In L.A., from my friend's apartment in Venice Beach, that same range gets me only the sliver of land West of the 405 freeway, and 7 miles of ocean. L.A. is so vast, and the driving so terrible, that it feels pretty accurate when Becky Garcia, a 38-year-old comedian, calls it "the worst place to date in the world."
Distance isn't the only issue. Youth and beauty are so abundant in this town that men often act entitled to them. Amy Harber, an actress, tells me that when she was 35, she met a 35-year-old guy on Match who wrote her, "You're hot. Too bad you're over 30. I'm going to be honest, if you want to get a date in L.A., you'd better say you're 29."
Fittingly, L.A. is the only city other than New York and London where I've met people using Raya, the "Illuminati Tinder" dating site that connects hot, rich, and/or famous people with the same. (I applied and got rejected; they let you in based on Instagram following and I guess mine wasn't impressive enough.) I know of a famous L.A. musician who uses it to meet models from around the world and flies them out to meet him.
Textbook L.A., my first date after my JetBlue flight landed was with a weirdly persistent flake. Danny, 37, had long hair, a great body, and an amusing SoCal vibe. The night we matched, he disappeared right after I asked him if he had a bar in mind. The next night, he called me three times wondering where I'd gone — zero recollection of flaking. Turns out he smokes a ton of weed.
When we finally went out, he drove up in a van advertising he's a mobile bike repairman, though his Bumble bio had said "industrial designer." (L.A. women tell me this is common; "director" = bartender.) I soon discovered he lived in a graffiti-covered loft downtown with 10 other people, had been a pro BMX biker, and was now trying to build a Jackass-type comedy brand on Snapchat. He insisted we watch a couple of his videos, then surprised me with a visit to Jumbo's Clown Room, a burlesque club in a strip mall. "You went to Jumbo's Clown Room with a former BMX star who's trying to build a Snapchat comedy brand?" asked Elise. "The only thing more L.A. would be if he was trying to be a Vine star." Um, before Vine shut down, he'd been doing that, too.
Ridiculous as Danny was, he made me feel adored and amazing. Then I got home and learned a valuable L.A. dating lesson: Get his last name and Google him first, because he might have gone on a podcast to talk about being a sex addict.
I'm pretty much going to leave this story idea here as is. Feels like a pretty obvious rom-com. You could go with Protagonist getting a magazine assignment as per the Cosmo article. Or a woman sets out on a journey across country to find The One. Maybe they make a pledge: Not to stop their cross-country trek (by car?… van?… motorcycle?) until they stumble upon True Love. I can imagine one or more of the guys she's dated following her after she's decided they're not her type. Not in a dangerous way, more in a There's Something About Mary mode.
Maybe she discovers she doesn't want to settle down. Or she is afraid of making a commitment. In any event, this is not just about dating guys, it's a journey of self-discovery which raises the question…
What does she discover about herself?
What would YOU do with this story conceit?
There you go: My fifth story idea for the month. And it's yours. Free!
Each day this month, I invite you to click on RESPONSES and join me to do some further brainstorming. Take each day's story idea and see what it can become when you play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.
See you in comments. And come back tomorrow for another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.
For other posts in my A Story Idea Each Day for a Month (2017) series, go here.