K is for Key (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.)
Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for any of you to use.
Who doesn’t love a Romantic guy? Jerome has the key to Ella’s loft, but not to her heart. After trying the old cliché (though a classy one) of sending flowers to her office, taping an announcement of his love for her to her windshield, and dangling in front of her a diamond pendant which she refused, he is going for the gusto. Pretending to be Ella’s cousin, he convinced a semi-friend (a locksmith) to make a key to her front door. Now he’s in, and he’s got his bag of goodies with him. So what’s in the bag?
Maybe a couple hundred little golden keys he’ll be dropping like breadcrumbs to her bedroom. To symbolize his wide open heart, little keys might be a better idea than the old rose petal motif he’s seen on TV a million times. If he wants to impress her, he must be unique. Maybe she suggested they swap house keys and he said no? Now he’s saying yes with all his heart. What else is in that bag? Knickknacks to mimic hotspots in Italy, her dream vacation? Groceries so he can cook her favorite meal? And a broken remote control to suggest his TV will be off the next time she stops by. That last one would work on me.
Mystery buffs, you can bet whoever has the briefcase that belongs to that key is the killer. A small key that either fit a diary or a briefcase was found at the scene, and the victim’s case is missing, so it’s not leap to assume the killer took the case. The killer probably doesn’t know he won’t be able to get it open without a screwdriver and a little labor. Your sleuth knows the victim, but that doesn’t mean the sleuth knows the killer. Naturally the sleuth is going to check the calendar and schedule book on the victim’s desk. When he does, he sees the word “keys” circled with red ink on the date of the 24th.
Now your sleuth needs to know what events might the victim had been planning for the 24th. Maybe a presentation or a one-on-one meeting with someone–someone who needs whatever was in that briefcase. But why is the word keys circled? Give that some thought and you’re on your way to solving the mystery before you write it. Mysteries are so much easier to write sort of backward, after you already know who did what and why. (At least I find this easier.)
Literary. He locked up the momentos, or rather, the torturous reminders of his past, packed up and moved to a new home. New home, new town, new beginning. But as time wore on, it was as if someone had brought the keys to each of those discarded items he so desperately wanted to forget. They entered his dreams more vividly every night, prompting headaches, fatigue… It was causing problems at his new job. So what were the items, and how will he learn to keep the past in the past and only let memories out as learning tools rather than as punishments?
Suppose one stowed-away item is a pair of old running shoes, and another is a high school yearbook, and maybe a third would be a thick, sealed letter-size envelope with his name on the front, along with a few smudges of grease. Tie these items together at some event no one would want to remember, something that happened in his past, and you’ll see your story unfold as your protagonist struggles to stay a step ahead of his nightmares. Peace may come, but you have to decide the cost for it. What is your protagonist learning about himself as he learns about the world?
How would keys fit nicely into a Children’s story? Think about little Lucy, who wants to be a singer someday. The problem is, any one song takes her through more keys than what exists on a keyboard. Some keys no one has ever heard before, nor would want to. Her voice bounces all over the place. People actually cover their ears when she sings, or cringe and walk away. But she is not the kind to give up. She sings in front of the mirror, she sings while taking a bath, she even tried singing while eating dinner, but her mother didn’t like the view of food in her mouth. If you make the plot as interesting as your character is likable, you’ll create a successful children’s story.
Please feel free to add to these ideas or share your own, and don’t be shy about offering up some ideas for sci-fi, horror, historical, or fantasy writers. We all need a little jumpstart now and then.